Content provided by EuroCommerce - The avian flu epidemic which has affected most countries of Europe has had a little-reported side-effect for egg and poultry farmers, as all birds staying more than 12 weeks indoors could lose their free range status.
Farmers ordered to keep poultry indoors
National and European authorities have ordered poultry farmers to keep their flocks indoors to protect them from cross-infection from wild birds. European rules, however, say that any birds staying more than 12 weeks indoors lose their free range status, and any eggs produced after that time will be downgraded from free range to barn eggs, which sell for a lot less.
The European Commission and governments in many EU Member States have hitherto said that eggs affected by this will have to be (re)packaged/(re)labelled, and may no longer make any reference to ‘free range’. This will also apply to any processed products containing free range eggs. Apart from the impact on farmers, this could cost retailers across Europe millions of Euros, and create real consumer confusion and supply disruption.
EuroCommerce asks temporarily suspension of 12-week rule
EuroCommerce, the voice of European retail and wholesale has been working with farmers and egg packers to press for the 12-week rule to be temporarily suspended until the epidemic is over, likely in the next 1-2 months. EuroCommerce also issued a joint press release together with COPA-COGECA, EUWEP (European egg packers) and AVEC (European poultry producers) on this.
Supporting the poultry producers, Christian Verschueren, Director-General of EuroCommerce, said: “We stand side-by-side with the farmers and the egg and poultry meat sectors on this issue. We of course want consumers to be confident that they are getting the product that they are paying for, but applying rapidly the '12-week-in-house' threshold as a trigger to downgrade free range eggs is disproportionate in these exceptional circumstances."
"If these sectors are forced by national veterinary authorities to keep birds indoors, it would be appropriate that European authorities should not insist on a rule which will risk putting some of our valued partners’ very existence at risk. We support the sectors in calling for a common sense approach to this issue and maintaining consumer confidence.”