free range chickens one use

Retailers have been urged to support free-range poultry producers amid fears bird housing restrictions could threaten the status of free-range products.

NFU president Meurig Raymond this week wrote to the CEOs of the top 10 food retailers in the UK to ask for support, such as informing customers that free-range birds had been kept indoors to meet government advice.

All poultry in Great Britain have been subject to a housing order since avian flu was detected in December. Under EU rules, only poultry products housed for fewer than 12 weeks can be marketed as free-range. That mark will be reached at the end of this month.

Defra said on Wednesday it planned to put in place an amended prevention zone in England from 28 February in which it expected to “allow some free range poultry to go outside where clear biosecurity arrangements have been put in place”, but restrictions are expected to continue in higher risk areas.

“These are unprecedented times and I remain very concerned about the future of the free range poultry sector, for both meat and egg products, should the housing order remain in place without a derogation,” said Raymond. “Downgrading these products would have a huge impact on margins in the sector.”