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Avian Influenza – what you need to know

Avian Influenza

You will have heard about the outbreak of Avian Flu (AI) this winter – an update of the situation can be found here.

The housing of free range chicken flocks is a temporary situation because of the threat of AI so it is important to follow official advice. At present there is no change to the labelling of free range eggs or chicken meat, but this may change at the end of February if the requirement to house flocks is extended. In order to comply with Defra’s guidelines, and keep within the spirit of the Catering Mark standards, our current advice is:

  1. Keep sourcing eggs from your existing suppliers and ask them to continue sourcing eggs from flocks with free range status as usual – even if their ability to label their eggs as free range is temporarily withdrawn. It’s important to continue supporting free range egg producers at this time.
  2. Don’t switch to eggs from caged hens as these are not permitted under your Food for Life Catering Mark award.
  3. Tell your customers that your eggs come from free range hens temporarily kept indoors due to government guidelines
  4. Organic eggs can still be labelled as organic and will continue to score points at Silver and Gold

The link above also contains lots of information, and is worth checking regularly as the situation unfolds.

Currently Public Health England advises that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said there is no food safety risk for UK consumers. The restrictions put in place are so that the outbreak can be contained and investigations carried out to find the source of the infection.

Free range chicken

Many caterers source free range chicken, particularly as part of their 5% free range meat requirement to achieve the gold Catering Mark. As with free range eggs, we encourage you to continue supporting free range chicken producers by continuing to source free range chicken from your usual suppliers. Don’t switch to meat from non-free range birds as you are required to maintain the Silver or Gold Catering Mark standards throughout the year. 

As long as you can evidence that your chicken was produced by free range flocks (even if temporarily housed), this expenditure will count towards your gold Catering Mark  in the usual way.

Organic chicken

You should continue to source organic chicken from the same farms and suppliers as usual. Organic chicken can still be labelled as organic as all of the other requirements of the strict organic standards are still being met on organic farms.

Study finds more vitamin D in free range and organic eggs
Researchers at Reading University have found that eggs from free range and organic chickens contain up to 30 per cent more vitamin D than those from chickens kept in sheds or cages. Vitamin D can support prevention of a range of diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, but is found naturally in only a handful of foods. Find out more here.

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