PROPOSALS have been laid in Europe for the removal of the derogation that allows eggs to be marketed as free range for the first 16 weeks of a housing order.

If approved by the European Parliament, eggs could continue to be classed as free-range for as long as birds were ordered to be housed for their health.

See also: Little improvement for egg producer profitability

The change would mean that farmers would not have their eggs downgraded to barn, which is typically less valuable than free-range.

The proposal to change marketing standards says: “Where temporary restrictions have been imposed on the basis of Union legislation, eggs may be marketed as ‘free-range’ notwithstanding that restriction.”

The avian influenza situation in Europe is broadly similar to here in the UK, with high numbers of detections in wild birds and a relatively high number of cases given it is the summer.

European avian influenza

Some regions in the Netherlands have been under a housing order for over ten months, and while retailers often pay a free-range price to farmers, some lose out.

The country has moved to a zoned housing order, with counties close to the coast still confining birds and parts of the southeast of the country lifting restrictions.

Other European countries, such as France, Italy and Spain, have also faced housing orders that lasted longer than 16 weeks in the past year.

However, some member states have relatively small free-range hen flocks and may therefore be reluctant to support the change, which the European Parliament must approve.