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Threat of bird flu sends British hens into hiding

Chaos has struck supermarket isles as shoppers spot labels on their free-range egg boxes, but what do these stickers actually mean?

Labels stating ‘hens temporarily housed in barns for their welfare’ are plastered over multiple egg boxes in UK grocers due to the threat of bird flu.

Outbreaks of birdflu across a string of EU countries resulted in restricted movement of poultry in an attempt to contain the virus.

In reaction, the UK government issued instructions for thousands of hens to be moved to barns in December last year.

Shortly after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued the housing order, cases of bird flu were reported in both Wales and Northern England.

EU rules stipulate that brands must be stripped of their ‘free-range’ status if hens are housed in barns for an excess of 12 weeks.

Despite recent relaxation of December’s emergency measures, many UK farmers have chosen to extend the period they keep their hens in barns.

Although the farmers’ intentions are precautionary, the decision could result in them being stripped of ‘free-range’ certification.

However, the British Egg Industry Council states: ‘Our research shows that consumers are supportive of farmers putting birds’ health first and 80% are happy to continue to pay the same price, or more, for eggs from free range flocks temporarily housed inside.’

Farmers emphasise that the eggs will look and taste the same, and popular grocer Marks and Spencers have promised to continue paying the free-range egg price to producers.

Unfortunately, filming of the sequel to Chicken Run will be postponed until further notice.