Farm Ireland

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Three more bird flu cases identified as deadline for 'free range' label nears

Poultry flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Poultry flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Three more cases of 'bird flu' have been confirmed by the Department of Agriculture in a whooper swans located at Clondroon Lake, Milltown, Co. Galway.

It brings to 12 the total number of incidences of bird flu since the first case was detected in in the late last year in Wexford.

As a result of an increased risk of avian influenza affecting commercial poultry flocks in Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine introduced regulations requiring flock keepers to confine their poultry in a secure building, which wild birds or other animals do not have access to.

These regulations have a particular impact on free range poultry flocks, as EU regulations lay down detailed rules regarding marketing standards for eggs and poultry meat. These regulations set down minimum requirements that must be met to use the term 'free range'.

Under these regulations, to protect public and animal health, eggs and poultry meat can marketed as 'free range' for the duration of the restriction but not for more than 12 weeks.

In Ireland's case, the 12-week period expires on March 17.

A new label is being proposed to deal with issues surrounding the use of the‘free range’ label, which poultry farmers will be no longer be able to use within weeks.

A new over-lay label explaining why ‘free range’ birds have been housed is being considered as a means to keep the use of the 'free-range' label which the poultry industry says is vital.

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The EU has announced that it has set aside €165m to fight animal diseases and plant pests this year, including in Ireland.

The funds will go to help governments fight the spread of diseases including bovine tuberculosis, rabies, salmonella, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, African swine fever and bird flu.

No commercial flocks have been affected in Ireland to date, and the Department of Agriculture has reminded flock owners - of both commercial flocks and people with backyard birds - that they are required to keep them indoors.

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