‘Supermarkets need to support poultry farmers’

Supermarkets need to support ‘free range’ poultry farmers, according to the Chairman of the IFA Poultry Committee Nigel Renaghan.

The ‘free range’ status of eggs and poultry meat is at risk due to the compulsory housing order in place to protect against the spread of bird flu.

Under EU regulations eggs and poultry meat may continue to be marketed as ‘free range’ for up to 12 weeks from once the compulsory housing order is brought into effect.

In Ireland’s case, the 12 week period is set to expire on March 17.

Industry stakeholders are working on a number of plans that could be put in place if the housing order remains in place until March 17 to protect the ‘free range’ status of eggs and poultry meat, Renaghan said.

“We have a template in place, but we’re still working out the details.

Supermarkets must stand by poultry farmers and support them during this difficult period.

If eggs or poultry meat aren’t allowed to be marketed as ‘free range’ following March 17 it could jeopardise the income and livelihood of a number of poultry farmers in Ireland, he added.

Poultry farmers need to be supported, as they could be affected by circumstances that are outside their control, he said.

New labelling system being considered

A new labelling system is being considered to protect the ‘free range’ status of eggs, according to Minister of State Andrew Doyle.

Minister Doyle, who has responsibilities for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, has said that a new over-lay label is being considered to protect the ‘free range’ status of eggs.

“One option is an over-lay label that explains the context. In reality, if poultry has to stay inside, the produce will be deemed to be barn produced meat or eggs.

An over-lay for free range stock temporarily confined could explain the position to the consumer. That option is being looked at.

“There have been a number of suggestions and these have been left for consideration and comment from all sectors, so it is an ongoing consultation,” he said.

Situation in the UK

The compulsory housing order of poultry will have been in place for 12 weeks on February 28 in the UK.

After this the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) plan to adopt a more targeted approach to protecting against the spread of bird flu.

Under the proposed measures poultry farmers in high risk areas, close to where significant numbers of wild birds collect, will be required to keep their birds housed.

In other areas poultry farmers may keep their bird outside in fenced or netted enclosures, according to DEFRA, once the enclosure meets necessary biosecurity requirements.

However, the Chairman of the IFA Poultry Committee believes that these measures aren’t fair and that a more unified approach must be implemented in Ireland.

“I am not in favour of the proposed measures to be put in place in the UK. Anything we do, we’ll do as a country,” he said.