A new label is set to appear on egg cartons across the country next week, as the Department of Agriculture confirms that the egg and poultry sector will no longer be able to use the 'free range' label after March 17.
The news comes after the Department introduced regulations requiring flock keepers to keep their poultry in a secure building, which wild birds or other animals do not have access to.
This means that all eggs sold in cartons, or on menus will not be able to use the term 'free range'.
For eggs currently labelled as ‘free range’, EU rules require that producers must detail how the hens were kept and because all poultry has been housed for the past number of weeks, the eggs do not qualify for 'free range' status.
According to the Department all previously free range eggs will now have to be classified as ‘barn eggs’.
It says the indication 'barn eggs' can include the following statement 'barn eggs' – laid by hens temporarily housed for their welfare.
Where will I see this label?
Because legislation requires that the farming method is detailed on the outside of cartons, the new label will also appear on the outside of egg cartons. According to the Department, the label must be easily visible and clearly legible.
What will the label look like?
According to the new guidelines, any reference to ‘free range’ on the label must be removed or covered over.
The sticker must adhere to the label and not be easily removed. The sticker could contain the indication 'barn eggs' or 'barn eggs' - laid by hens temporarily housed for their welfare.
What will the new rules mean for hotels/restaurants/cafés?
Under law, business owners cannot have information on menus that is not correct, so if free range eggs are no longer used in the business, the menu cannot claim that free range eggs are used.
Business owners will need to either remove any references to ‘free range’ on the menu and if this is not possible a sticker which obscures any reference to ‘free range’ on the label could be used.
The sticker must adhere to the label and not be easily removed.
For free range eggs – what is the situation when the confinement order is lifted – will eggs from those hens be entitled to be labelled ‘free range’?
Yes. The status of the eggs laid once the confinement order is lifted will be considered as ‘free range’.