Free-range eggs will no longer be available to buy in the UK from Monday - here’s why

The UK was hit by a multitude of avian flu outbreaks this winter
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Shoppers will no longer be able to buy free-range eggs in the UK from today.

This is due to birds not having been allowed outdoors since November over concerns of avian flu outbreaks.

Eggs sold in shops will therefore have to carry a sticker or label saying they are ‘barn eggs’, which is the name given to eggs produced by hens which are housed indoors on a permanent basis.

After the UK was hit by a multitude of avian flu outbreaks this winter, with more than 80 reported outbreaks in England, birds reared for meat and eggs were ordered by the UK government to be kept indoors.

Europe has also suffered one its worst winters for the disease.

Some birds have therefore been indoors since November in order to reduce the risk of outbreaks, but this means their eggs can not be labelled as free-range.

The rules apply to all birds.

What does this mean for supermarkets?

Shops will have to show signage explaining why birds are being housed indoors and the label change for customers.

However, when the current measures are lifted, eggs will go back to being free-range.

The National Farmers’ Union’s chief poultry adviser, Aimee Mahony, said: “Shoppers may notice different labels on egg packs explaining that the eggs have been laid by hens temporarily housed to protect their health and welfare. Once the risk levels have reduced and the housing measures have been lifted by Defra, birds will be able to go outside again.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “The 16-week grace period we allowed for free-range eggs has now been exceeded, and eggs must now be marketed as ‘barn eggs’. We have worked closely with the sector and retailers to implement these changes as smoothly as possible.”