With the UK having the largest free-range flock in Europe there is obvious anxiety over the current housing ban which comes to an end on 28th February.

On Tuesday the NFU announced that it will be urging European officials to extend the ban until the risk of avain flu has subsided. The UK president said: “With this outbreak of avian influenza, we are in uncharted territory and this situation requires new measures that will help to solve the concerns of producers.  The four UK farming unions are calling on MEPs and EU decision-makers to extend the 12 week period on free-range status 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. 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 an absolute priority.”

On Radio 4’s Today programme this morning at 7.20 am, Mandy Johnson (a farmer at Laydilay Organic Eggs) and Mark Williams, Secretary-general of EUWEP (European Union of Wholesale with Eggs, Egg Products, Poultry and Game) discussed the potential consequences of an extended ban.  The programme is available for the rest of the month on BBC iplayer and is well worth a list

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes

BBC Free-Range