With poultry housed due to 'bird flu' what does this mean for food branded 'Free Range'
The status of the 'Free Range' label has been queried as all of Ireland’s poultry farmers have been ordered to house there birds to prevent the spread of Avian flu.
The detailed rules regarding marketing standards for eggs and poultrymeat, including the definition of free-range, are set at EU level.
The Regulations provide for situations where veterinary restrictions are imposed, as is the case currently in Ireland, whereby eggs and poultrymeat may continue to be marketed as “Free Range” for the duration of the restriction but not for more than 12 weeks.
There are a number of Member States who currently have housing restrictions in place which could affect the eligibility for free-range and therefore the issue of what to do after the 12 week period expires is one of interest to many Member States.
In Ireland’s case the 12 week period will expire on the 17th of March.
Normally, to qualify for free range the birds must have had during at least half their lifetime continuous daytime access to open-air runs comprising an area mainly covered by vegetation over various sizes.
The issue is much more immediate in Central Europe where authorities have been battling with the disease since early November.
The issue was discussed at the EU Agriculture Council meeting on Monday.