Free-Range Eggs Will No Longer Be Available In The UK Due To Bird Flu

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Due to birds having been kept inside for more than 16 weeks following the outbreak of bird flu, free-range eggs will no longer be available to purchase in supermarkets or grocery stores; instead, customers will find eggs labelled as “barn eggs”. According to the RSPCA, 55% of all eggs produced in the UK are free-range, meaning that these eggs come from birds that, during the daytime, enjoy unlimited access outdoors. Read on for more information on why the free-range eggs will not be available.

The chief poultry adviser at the National Farmers’ Union, Aimee Mahony, said that the government reports “still a high level of risk” to birds of catching the flu. She added, “This is an incredibly difficult time for all bird owners and vigilance remains vital.” Farmers are following “stringent biosecurity measures” and are adapting hen houses to make the birds more comfortable. 

According to reports and the government, the country is experiencing its largest ever outbreak of avian influenza. Measures are in place to prevent the virus from spreading and signs will be placed in supermarkets to inform customers of the change from Monday onwards. Free-range labelling will only return when hens are permitted to go outside again.

The RSPCA says consumers buy more boxes of free range and barn eggs than those from caged hens. However, with the bird flu restrictions put in place, hens will no longer be able to freely access the outside for a period of time until restrictions are lifted.

Barn and free-range eggs meet the welfare standard set by the RSPCA, due to the freedom to lay the eggs and move around to different spaces. Barn hens are kept inside, but are allowed to move freely, whereas free-range hens are permitted to go outside as well.

The case numbers of H5N1 strain of bird flu, also known as avian influenza, began rising in November 2021; it is highly contagious and can affect large flocks at once. According to the NHS, this bird flu is at an extremely low risk to humans, although several people have been infected around the world, and a number have even died.

In a statement, the government has said that the restrictions put in place will hopefully aid in controlling the cases of H5N1 strain of bird flu, and limiting from moving elsewhere to affect others.