Why are free range eggs currently unavailable in the UK?

The Government, through the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) imposed a housing order on poultry kept across England, with devolved authorities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland following suit. This housing order was put in place for 16 weeks, in Autumn 2022. However, due to recent outbreaks, the housing order will remain in place after the 1st February, 2023.

This means that free range hens and poultry must be kept inside, and eggs previously classified as free range must be classified as barn eggs.

The reasoning is that, in doing so, contact between wild birds and farmed animals will be minimised – cutting the risk of the H5N8 strain of avian influenza (bird flu) that is now endemic across the European continent and infecting farms.

At Ocado we wanted to reassure you that the free range birds that supply our eggs, even though they may be housed, continue to be reared to the highest standards of animal welfare.

What is avian influenza (bird flu)?

Avian influenza (bird flu) is a disease of birds. The H5N8 strain of the disease has been found in wild and farmed birds in the UK. A number of measures are in place to reduce the risk of the disease spreading.
The Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for UK consumers. Public Health England advises that the risk to public health is very low.

Where avian influenza has been confirmed, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has put restrictions in place to limit the spread of disease, and investigate the source of the infection.

Can I catch bird flu through chicken or eggs?

The Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for UK consumers.

Why can’t the birds go outside?

Avian influenza is spread to free range poultry from contact with wild birds, especially migratory species. To control the spread of disease the government, through DEFRA, has ordered everyone in England who keeps free range poultry to ensure the birds remain indoors until the outbreak has passed. The devolved administrations have issued similar orders to protect poultry. This order covers large flocks on farms and small back garden hobby flocks.

Are free range eggs now barn eggs?

At Ocado, we work closely with our suppliers to ensure that free range hens, even though they may be housed, continue to be reared to the highest standards of animal welfare. 

Why are you charging the same as free range eggs?

In order to maintain the highest standards of animal welfare and support our producers, the price of this product remains unchanged.

Can I buy free range eggs from other supermarkets?

All free range poultry in England are currently housed by government order through DEFRA (and the devolved administrations have issued similar orders that affect poultry in the other nations of the UK). This affects all retailers, including supermarkets. 

Are organic eggs still free range?

Although organic hens may now be housed, they continue to be raised to organic standards in every other way. Once the current housing order is lifted, organic eggs will regain their free range status. Boxes of organic eggs will have a sticker added that indicates they are barn raised.

Will the eggs go back to being free range?

As soon as DEFRA lifts the compulsory housing order we can begin to sell free range eggs again.

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