New labels for ‘free range’ eggs will be seen on shelves next week

Consumers will begin to see alternative labels for ‘free range’ eggs from next week onwards, the IFA’s Poultry Committee Chairman, Nigel Renaghan, said.

Because the compulsory housing order put in place to protect against outbreaks of bird flu was extended beyond 12 weeks, poultry producers have lost their ‘free range‘ status.

This 12-week period came to an end on March 17; it has been decided that an alternative labelling system will be put in place to inform customers of the reasons behind the compulsory housing order.

Following talks with supermarkets, egg packers and slaughter houses, Renaghan has received assurances that prices paid to poultry farmers will remain unchanged.

The supermarkets were very supportive once the situation was explained. These measures will only remain in place until April 30.

“Consumers won’t see the new labels straight away. Supermarkets will have a back-log of stock they will have to get through before the alternative labels reach the shelves,” Renaghan said.

The new labelling system is set to explain to customers that ‘free range’ eggs that they would normally buy were laid by hens that were being housed for their own welfare.

Once the April 30 deadline passes Renaghan expects poultry farmers to return to ‘business as usual’.

The decision was taken to extend the deadline in order to minimise the possibility of a potential bird flu outbreak, Renaghan previously said.

Measures are in place that in the event of an outbreak, which is now unlikely, a farmer will receive compensation, he added.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, egg packers, slaughter house operators and other industry stakeholders were involved in the discussions over potential compensation.

It is hoped that, by April 30, the last of the migratory birds will have departed Irish shores and that the possibility of infection will have passed.