Eggs laid by hens kept indoors for straight months due to bird flu could be sold as free-range under a possible relaxation of rules.
It comes as egg farmers in Britain are battling the biggest avian flu outbreak on record, leading to fears of shortages.
Under changes being looked at by ministers, the way free-range is defined could be relaxed, meaning hens kept in barns for long periods of time could meet the new criteria.
As it stands, if a bird is kept indoors for more than 16 weeks it cannot be defined as free-range.
Whitehall sources said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is considering changes to help UK farmers compete against their counterparts in Europe. daily Telegraph.
Retailers and Hospitality Firms has been forced to change its supply chains this year So that the outbreak can be dealt with.
An outbreak of avian flu has resulted in the deaths of some 3.8 million birds, according to official figures published last month, with fears that the flu could spread further this winter.
Egg farming representatives have said it is important for UK businesses that the country is at par with the European Union.
Robert Gooch, chief executive of the British Free Range Egg Producers’ Association, previously said: “It is vital that the UK aligns with the EU, otherwise retailers will be able to import eggs labeled as free range from hens kept in the EU. AI Pandemic when there is none in the UK market.
Regulations currently in England and Wales mean that birds must be kept to protect them from bird flu and prevent the spread of the disease.
Egg producers have seen their production costs rise over the past year, with businesses previously raising prices at supermarkets and asking producers to raise prices.
According to the British Free Range Egg Producers Association, feeding chickens has become at least 50 per cent more expensive in the past year, while fuel costs have risen by 30 per cent.
James Mottershead, Chairman of the NFU Poultry Board, said: “The British poultry sector has experienced an unprecedented year with record levels of avian influenza (AI) ravaging family farm businesses across the country.
“We have seen how strict biosecurity measures can help reduce the risk of AI and we urge all birders to be vigilant, whether you are a professional poultry farmer or someone who keeps a small number of birds in their garden. Keeps chickens.”
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