Avian influenza and free-range status - what's going on in Europe?

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The NFU is working hard in Europe to make sure that this issue is kept on the agenda.

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The situation so far

European legislation currently allows a 12-week derogation for free-range birds, if they are required to be housed by law under a Prevention Zone; in England this ends on the 28 February.

If the housing order currently in place as part of Defra’s Prevention Zone is extended beyond this date, then the free range status of eggs and poultry meat will be lost.

The regulations for poultry meat and eggs are separate pieces of legislation which means that they have to be looked at together and separately.

The Marketing Regulations

  • Egg marketing: Commission Regulation 589/2008
  • Poultry meat marketing:  Commission Regulation 543/2008

The 12 week-derogation on free range status has now come to an end in some of the European member states.  The NFU’s office in Brussels is working hard to maintain open communication channels with our European counterparts and are providing us with regular updates on the situation at the European Commission.

What's going on elsewhere in Europe?

The table below gives an overview of the conversations the NFU has had with the member states who have reached the end of the 12-week derogation. We will update this table as and when other member states reach that point.

Has the housing order been extended and if so for how long?Given the 12-week derogation for FR status has expired what will happen with labelling poultry products?

Yes, the housing order is extended. The minister will decide about ending the order based on a risk assessment and advice from a committee of veterinarians.

At this time there is no mention of a final date

From the  2 February the 12-week period had ended. Eggs laid from this date must be printed with a ‘2’ and labelled as ‘barn’.

It is possible to use free-range egg boxes but only when these boxes are stickered with ‘barn eggs’ and consumers are informed in the stores, otherwise barn boxes must be used

Hens younger than 31 weeks can still produce free-range eggs (until that age).


The federal states (Bundesländer) are in charge of this and most have decided to extend the housing order.

Some states have extended it without an end date. Furthermore Lower Saxony, where this issue is quite concerning, has adopted a mixed approach. Some of the counties have no ban, some have an end date of the end of February and others the end of April.

Only one state is not in line with the law: Baden –Württemberg as they paused the housing order for a day officially on 1 Feb and restored the housing order on 2 Feb. The ministry agreed to allow it – taking a pragmatic approach.

Producers now have to get a registration number for barn status of the eggs.

The registration number used to cost €500 but for now it is being given for free

Producers are allowed to use old packaging but they are adding a sticker that says ‘barn’. In some cases they say ‘unfortunately I had to stay inside’

It has not yet been decided if the same price will be paid for the eggs and this will be dependent on the decision of the individual egg buyers