Leaders of the four UK farming unions are urging MEPs and EU decision-makers to extend the 12-week free-range status of poultry affected by the compulsory housing order in place until 28 February. This was imposed after outbreaks of avian flu.
They are asking MEPs to help ensure that the extension applies to both free-range eggs and poultry meat and continues until the risk from avian flu subsides.
A joint statement from the four union presidents said: “With this outbreak of avian influenza, we are in uncharted territory.” They want the 12-week free-range period extended ‘until the risk has subsided to previous levels’.
“Farmers across the UK and Europe need this extension to give them certainty that their produce will have a market,” they said. “The demand from shoppers for free-range eggs and poultry meat has increased significantly over the past 25 years and we want our producers to be able to provide this for them.
“The UK market will, without doubt, be one of the most affected countries as a result of bird flu, due to half of our national flock being free-range, by far the highest percentage of any member state.
“If these steps aren’t taken to protect the industry, producers are facing the very real prospect that they could go out of business and the UK market will be unable to enjoy the free-range products they demand.
“British farmers have been quick to introduce enhanced biosecurity measures and have ensured that the welfare of their birds remains a priority.”
The UK has documented eight cases of avian flue in domestic poultry flocks.