Verandas may be long term solution for free range farmers threatened with avian flu

The building of verandas on the side of chicken sheds may be the only solution for poultry farmers wanting to retain their free range status in the face of ongoing avian influenza outbreaks, according to one of the leading figures in the poultry industry.

The chairman of eggs & poultry meat at Copa Cogeca, Charles Bourns, has written to UK producers about the future of free range marketing standards.

In the letter, Bourns said he had been discussing the use of verandas, which would allow birds to range outdoors without coming into contact with wild birds. In the letter, he acknowledges “verandas will add cost, will take time to be built, especially if planning is required, and will certainly not be in place by next winter.”

However, he writes that the preferred option is for producers to retain free range status while birds are housed under government orders, but in the letter states that “no-one is listening” even though this is the “logical solution”.

The full text of the letter appears below:

Dear Producer / Member,

Following several conversations today, both at home & abroad, I would like to put my position as Chairman of Eggs & Poultry Meat Copa Cogeca over the future of Free Range and the Marketing Standards.

My number one position is that the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) of the Country or Region should decide when hens should be housed and when they should be released. His order should null and void the Marketing Regulations. If the hens stay in longer than 12 weeks this is being ordered because the CVO believes the danger to the national flock is still real, it is ‘NOT THE PRODUCERS DECISION’ – the producer is doing it because he has been ordered to do so. So the farm should, and must, maintain to its FREE RANGE STATUS and not be reduced to BARN status and hence potential loss of premium. The above is the logical solution but no one is listening – so for this reason we have been discussing the addition of Verandas because at a meeting on Tuesday with the Commission, they asked the industry to do so as a preferred option. This we are doing.  As it is, I believe, better for us to work with them and keep talking rather than walking away and ending up with an imposed solution.

I know the downside which may lead all back to the first option. Verandas will add cost, will take time to be built, especially if planning is required, and will certainly not be in place by next winter.

I trust this clears up any misunderstanding that as Chairman of Copa Cogeca I had forgotten my roots!! If we are to achieve the first option we need you to lobby M.E.P, Ministers and your local Member of Parliament.

Kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

Charles Bourns Chairman of Eggs & Poultry Meat, Copa Cogeca

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