RSPCA Assured is calling on the public to still support free-range egg producers, now all free-range eggs are being labelled as ‘barn’ due to bird flu restrictions. As of 1 February, eggs laid and then sold through the British egg industry Lion Code label can no longer be labelled as free-range or organic which means consumers will only see ‘barn’ or ‘caged eggs’ on their supermarket shelves.
The changes to the labelling of eggs is due to the compulsory nationwide housing order which was put in place for all birds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland at the end of last year, as the UK faces the worst outbreak of avian influenza it has ever experienced.
Since 2021, an estimated three million laying hens have been culled due to bird flu, around 7% of the industry’s birds.
A 16-week derogation for free-range laying hens means they can be kept inside for up to 16 weeks and their eggs can still be labelled free-range during this time. This period ended on 1 February.
Kate Norman, the RSPCA’s laying hen welfare expert, said: “We know that google searches for ‘free-range’ increased by 809% from January to March last year which was the last time eggs could no longer be labelled free-range due to bird flu restrictions. This highlights that this issue is clearly something consumers care about and are actively looking for more information on.”