A new label is set to appear on all egg cartons across the country very shortly, with the Department of Agriculture insisting that the egg and poultry sector can no longer use the ‘Free Range’ label after St Patrick’s Day 2017.
This news comes following the introduction of recent and necessary regulations by the Dept. of Agriculture, which required all poultry keepers to maintain their flocks indoors in a secure building, ensuring no access to other wild birds or animals. Same decree was due to the outbreaks of the highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza (H5N8) currently sweeping across Europe. Bird flu has been reported in no less than 16 countries across Europe last month.
The H5N8 strain of the virus was found in Whooper Swans in Borrisokane and Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, as well as in a Grey Heron in Middleton, Co. Cork. Two cases were also reported in Northern Ireland in Whooper Swans in Derry and Lough Neagh.
From March 18th next all eggs sold in cartons, or offered for sale on menus will be unable to use the description ‘free range’. Egg producers must detail how hens were kept and according to the Department, all previously free range eggs will now have to be classified with the term ‘barn eggs’ or ‘barn eggs – laid by hens temporarily housed for their welfare’.
According to EU rules this new label must appear ‘easily visible and clearly legible’ on the outside of all egg cartons, with any reference to ‘free range’ on the label removed or covered over, with new sticker ‘not easily removed’.
Under current law, owners of hotels, restaurants, cafés and pubs selling food, can no longer have information on menus that is not totally correct, so proprietors will need to remove any references to eggs as being ‘free range’ on all written published material.
If and when the current confinement order in relation to avian influenza is lifted, the industry can again return to marking their produce as ‘free range’ if so appropriate.