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Free Range Eggs During an Avian Influenza Period

When Might Free-Range Eggs Be Labelled as “Barn” Eggs?

Due to outbreaks of bird flu, also known as Avian Influenza, you may notice that eggs on your supermarket shelf are no longer labelled as free-range.

Why does this happen?

To prevent the spread of the virus, it is occasionally necessary to make temporary changes to the way free-range hens are raised. This is done by limiting the birds' access to the outside. But you can be sure that whether free-range, organic or barn, RSPCA Assured eggs are always higher welfare.

The changes to egg labelling are due to nationwide housing orders which can be brought in for birds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Egg Marketing Standards Regulations state that free-range laying hens can be kept inside for up to 16 weeks when necessary and their eggs still be labelled as free-range during this time. Once this period comes to an end all eggs from free-range birds being kept inside must be labelled as ‘barn’.

Avian influenza is a highly contagious virus that affects birds, including chickens, and results in high mortality. Outbreaks can have devastating effects on poultry farms which is why governments around the world insist that birds be temporarily kept inside.

We Know the Public are Concerned for Free-Range Hens

Google searches for ‘free-range’ increase dramatically during lockdown periods. This tells us that people really care about this issue and are actively looking for more information and this is really positive. 

How Do Birds Used to Roaming Around Outside Cope with Being Kept Indoors?

Luckily for the hens, despite this change in the way they are raised, their welfare remains a top priority for farmers, especially those producing eggs carrying the RSPCA Assured label. RSPCA Assured certified barns provide a safe and comfortable environment for the hens with ample space to move around, forage in and express their natural behaviour. They are also provided with raised perches and plenty of enrichment objects like dangling CDs and vegetables to peck at and interact with.

Free-Range Eggs Back on the Shelves When Lockdown Ends

When a housing order is lifted, free-range hens are once again able to access outside-range areas straight away and their eggs are labelled ‘free-range’. Consumers start to see free-range eggs appearing on supermarket shelves just days later.

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