DEFRA has said it plans to open a consultation that could lead to changes to the UK’s free-range marketing rules in the event of a poultry housing order.

The government confirmed it would ask for views on the current framework later this summer.

See also: Europe moves to end 16-week egg marketing derogation

A Defra spokesperson said it would seek views on removing the 16-week derogation timeframe currently part of the Egg Marketing Standards regulations.

Under current regulations, farmers may market eggs produced by housed hens as free range for the first 16 weeks of a housing order, after which they must be labelled as barn.

In practice this has meant overstickering egg cartons and stamping eggs at egg packers rather than on farms, with in-store information giving shoppers more detail about the change to eggs’ free-range status.

However, this is seen as a costly and labour-intensive activity that can potentially confuse consumers.

In Europe, where housing orders have lasted close to a year in some cases, moves are already underway to change legislation.

Subject to a vote on the matter this summer, changes will be made by the Autumn in Europe that effectively ends the 16-week derogation, meaning eggs will continue to be marketed as free-range for as long as a housing order remains in place.