Following a series of recent meetings with Tesco, Co-op, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Asda and M&S, the NFU has issued a brief update on retailers’ views on avian influenza.
At the start of this year the ongoing Defra Housing Order to prevent outbreaks of avian influenza resulted in the loss of free range status for producers and egg packaging was over stickered with labels informing consumers that the birds were being temporarily housed for their welfare.
Retailers have all reported low levels of consumer queries as a result of the over-stickering. Kantar data shows that the volume of egg sales increased by 12% in the 24 week period ending 18 June 2017 when compared to the previous year – which covers the period free range status was lost.
The retailers gave a mixed response on the use of over stickers, if needed at the end of this year. A couple of retailers urged the industry to take steps to avoid losing free range status and others thought that the over stickers worked well. If we were to lose free range status again this year then all retailers felt that over-stickering would be the way forward. The retailers felt that it will be important for the sector to market free range products in a similar way to avoid confusing consumers.
Although verandas are no longer included in the amendments proposed by the EU Commission to retain free range status some retailers like some of the benefits such as the additional space that a veranda could provide. Others felt that verandas would be difficult to explain to consumers and questioned the cost vs the benefit.
There has been some difficulties when free range egg is used as an ingredient as some egg products have a longer shelf life and therefore they are more difficult to label. There are reports of some retailers removing the reference to free range from such products.