Free-range egg sales in the UK are at risk

Free-range egg sales in the UK are at risk

England’s hens are being quarantined due to bird flu on the rise

England’s chickens and hens will be kept in jail until the UK’s worst bird flu outbreak subsides.

While risk levels are reviewed weekly, housing orders in England from November will not be lifted until the spring, when wild birds carrying the virus migrate elsewhere, chief veterinarian Christine Middlemiss said on Tuesday. That means free-range eggs — which typically make up more than half of the supply — could soon be flying off the shelves.

The UK allows manufacturers to keep the label for 16 weeks after housing orders come into force. It ends at the end of February. The number of cases has decreased since October, but the chance of infection remains “very high,” he said.

“We’re seeing fewer outbreaks, which is better, but the risk is still there,” Middlemiss said in an interview. “There is a balance between the welfare of the birds and the level of risk from bird flu, and we have to look at what that balance is.”

However, infection rates in wild birds have stabilized, and case numbers on farms have declined from their fall peak. It’s a sign of hope as global poultry producers grapple with an outbreak that has killed tens of thousands of birds, mostly in North America and Europe.

England also ordered indoor chickens in the previous year. While other factors help outdoor production, such as ensuring new farms aren’t built near waterways where wild birds congregate, housing is a conservation measure, Middlemiss said.

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“Long term, I don’t think this is the end of outdoor manufacturing,” he said. “It’s very important for consumers. These are significant and unusual outbreaks.”

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About the Author: Morton Obrien

"Reader. Infuriatingly humble travel enthusiast. Extreme food scholar. Writer. Communicator."

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