Informing consumers


Eggs are used as an ingredient in thousands of food products, from quiches and sandwiches to ready meals and biscuits. Many of these products use free range eggs, which is often shown on the packaging.

If free range hens have to be housed for more than 12 weeks, packs of eggs sold to consumers need to indicate this.  There is no legal requirement to label the egg production method on products containing eggs (other than egg packs), but if products contain eggs from free range hens housed for more than 12 weeks, shops will be displaying posters in store to ensure that customers are aware that food products labelled as free range may contain eggs from hens temporarily housed for their own safety.

Most free range hens in Great Britain have been housed since December.  In England producers not in ‘Higher Risk Areas’ are able to make individual decisions to let birds outside again but are also required to provide additional biosecurity measures, designed to minimise contact between poultry and wild birds/waterfowl based on a risk assessment.  In Scotland and Wales producers are able to make individual decisions as to whether they should let their birds outside or not, based on self-assessment - they will still need to comply with strict biosecurity.  Different timings apply in Northern Ireland.

Some food products on sale in the UK contain imported eggs or egg products, so where this is the case, and these eggs come from hens housed for more than 12 weeks, you may see information in shops selling these products to indicate this.  In some other EU countries, birds were housed during November so the 12-week period passed earlier than this and their eggs are required to be labelled accordingly.

Restrictions on birds being allowed outside also apply to other types of poultry such as broiler chickens (chickens kept for their meat) and turkeys.