World Egg Day, Free Range Eggs and Bird Flu

Today is World Egg Day, it doesn't have a tremendously long tradition, but since 1996 World Egg Day has been celebrated every year on the second Friday in October.

However, this year World Egg Day comes amidst an unprecedented number of bird flu detections being reported in wild and domestic birds from June to September in Europe and the UK.

In past years, outbreaks of avian influenza (AI) declined over the summer. But outbreaks have continued across the UK and elsewhere in Europe for far longer this year.  a World Health Organization adviser has been reported as stating that bird flu was no longer just a seasonal threat. An avian flu vaccine for chickens is not yet available, although trials are under way.

Defra introduced regional housing measures in Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex on Wednesday for poultry and captive birds amid a growing number of fresh outbreaks.  But there is a warning made across industry that the housing measures should be extended nationally amid the growing threat of further outbreaks across the UK

The situation currently is that eggs may still be called 'free range' for up to 16 weeks if chickens are forced to be kept inside to reduce the risk of outbreaks of bird flu. The EU Commission is proposing new rules whereby farmers in the EU would no longer have to drop the free-range label on their eggs if there was an extended compulsory housing order in place.

A draft proposal from the commission, which would need to be approved by the European parliament: “Where temporary restrictions have been imposed on the basis of [European] Union legislation, eggs may be marketed as ‘free range’ notwithstanding that restriction.”

It is now essential for egg producers in the UK that we follow this EU approach to avoid British suppliers being disadvantaged and to support their businesses.

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