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New EU rules on free-range chickens came into force

Staff Writer |
New EU rules to extend the period during which free-range chickens’ access to open-air runs can be restricted came into force.

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Following the avian influenza outbreak in 2008, the EU put rules in place to allow farmers to market their eggs as free range even if their hens had no access to open-air runs for up to 12 weeks.

This period expanded from 12 to 16 weeks from November 25, 2017. The European Commission said that it is increasing the time period in response to potential economic losses raised by concerned EU hen farmers.

The 12 week span was deemed too short by farmers with the prolonged nature of the influenza outbreak in 2016.

They faced financial losses by keeping their hens in longer than the specified period, subsequently forcing them to market their usual free range eggs as ‘barn’ eggs.

EU veterinary rules require hens to be kept indoors to reduce the risk of infections from migratory birds, which is at direct odds with EU rules around free range eggs.

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