chickens poultry farm

 Producers have welcomed the announcement, but warned they remain in a ‘bleak’ position due to low returns and soaring costs 

Mandatory housing measures for poultry and captive birds, introduced to help stop the spread of bird flu, will be lifted from Monday 2 May, Defra has confirmed.

The UK’s chief veterinary officers said that poultry and other captive birds would not need to be housed unless they were in a Protection Zone after this date.

However, enhanced biosecurity requirements that were brought in as part of the nationwide Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) in November would remain in force, including a ban on all poultry gatherings, Defra said.

This decision had been taken because infection may still be circulating for “several more weeks” and bird keepers should continue to take effective and precautionary biosecurity measures, it added.

“Whilst the lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, scrupulous biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe,” said the chief vets in a joint statement.

The AIPZ was introduced on 3 November 2021 following a rise in bird flu cases in the UK. Since late October there have been more than 100 cases of bird flu, amounting to the UK’s largest ever outbreak.

A 16-week grace period allowing eggs from housed birds to continue to be labelled as free-range elapsed on 21 March, meaning eggs had to be marketed as ‘barn eggs’ until further notice.

Free-range egg sector will face “mass exodus” without price increase

With the mandatory housing measures now set to end next week, the British Free Range Egg Producers Association welcomed the fact “free-range eggs will be back on shelves”.

But with an egg sector now at “breaking point” due to low returns for producers, it warned the future for the sector still looked “bleak”.

“While it’s a relief to my members, lifting the housing order does not solve the crisis facing the egg sector,” said BFREPA CEO Robert Gooch. “It will not remove the huge hikes in energy, transport, feed and labour costs they are experiencing.” 

Citing the body’s recent survey, which revealed at least 51% of its members were considering exiting the sector, he added “even a small number coming out of egg production would lead to egg shortages, which we predict will come later this year”. 

BFREPA is campaigning for an increase of at least 40p per dozen to be implemented immediately – 80p per dozen for organic eggs – and has written to the eight major food retailers in the UK to act before businesses go bust. 

The organisation has also called a crisis summit for 10 May and invited representatives from each retailer to attend to discuss how to resolve the issue.