You may have noticed while doing your recent food shop that free-range eggs have either disappeared from the shelves or a surprising sign telling us that our eggs will temporarily be coming from barns. This can be worrying as we always encourage our supporters to buy high welfare, free-range eggs when they can – that’s if you don’t get lovely fresh eggs from your own hens or from a local egg club!
So now you might be asking “where have the free-range eggs gone?” Well, the reason for the sudden disappearance is sadly because of the ongoing housing order.
What does the housing order have to do with free-range eggs disappearing?
On Monday, 14th March we attended a DEFRA meeting regarding the ongoing housing order, this included representatives from all governing bodies as well as the egg industry. Sadly, due to the ongoing cases of Avian Influenza, we were disappointed to hear that currently there are no plans to lift the restrictions.
Since last Monday (21st March) the commercial sector has had no option but to change their egg labelling to indicate their birds are not free-ranging but are kept in barns. If free-range birds are housed, legislation dictates that free-range eggs can only be sold as free-range for a maximum of 16 weeks and after that point, if a housing order is still in place, eggs must be marked as barn eggs.
Farmers are now being advised by DEFRA to begin relabelling indicating there is no clear date in sight for lifting the housing order. Last year the housing order was lifted on 31st March.
Of course, this housing order is not only affecting the commercial egg industry and hospitality sector as seen from a tweet from the British Free Range Egg Producers Association about the eggs used at J D Wetherspoons pubs. But also you, the backyard hen keepers that want to make sure your hens are safe from catching Avian Influenza.
If you have concerns about the well-being and welfare of your hens, please get in touch with our Hen Helpline, we will be only too happy to help you where possible.