Free Range Labelling Under Threat Due to Bird Flu – Europe

Free Range Labelling Under Threat Due to Bird Flu – Europe

Poultry in Europe have been forced indoors to protect them from a dangerous type of avian influenza. However EU rules mean that if the birds are ordered indoors for more than twelve weeks their products can no longer be listed as free range. European countries are facing the real and potential loss of free range status, the National Farmers Union’s Chief Poultry advisor Gary Ford wrote: “The impact that this will have on the British free range poultry industry has huge long term implications – a situation that weighs heavily on mind.”

A Dutch delegation drew the attention of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of the EU to the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in several EU countries since October 2016, and to the consequences of prolonged mandatory confinement of poultry on organic and free-range egg production and on the potential economic losses for producers.

In particular it called on the EU’s Commission to consider a one-time derogation to allow extension of the 12-week confinement period without producers having to change labelling from free range to barn eggs. Several different countries, including the UK, supported the Dutch request. The Commission has committed to reflecting on the issue and working with affected member states to discuss further.

However, the NFU reported that Commissioner Hogan, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said consumers must also be protected, and that a balance needed to be struck between helping producers on one hand, and consumers on the other.

What is our approach here in Australia if such an event took place? Food for thought.