Avian flu leads to free-range egg status concerns in Wales

Chickens Image copyright Thinkstock

A Welsh farming union has raised concerns that keeping poultry indoors due to avian flu will damage their free-range egg and meat status.

There have been eight UK documented cases of the H5N8 strain of the infection, including in Llanelli and Pontyberem.

It led to an avian flu prevention zone being extended to all of Wales.

But NFU Cymru is among four farming unions calling for the 12-week free-range status to be extended.

The prevention zone is in place until 28 February 2017 and includes measures such as keeping poultry and other captive birds indoors or separate from wild birds.

But the presidents of the four UK farming unions - including NFU Cymru - have called for free-range status to be extended "until the risk has subsided to previous levels".

"The UK market will, without doubt, be one of the most affected countries as a result of bird flu, due to half of our national flock being free-range, by far the highest percentage of any member state," the UK Farming Union Presidents said in a statement.

Yet the British Free Range Egg Producers Association said the restrictions were necessary.

Its chief executive Robert Gooch told BBC Radio Cymru's Taro'r Post programme: "This is a situation that is not of farmers' making. It will be seen as a necessary step to protect production of free range eggs.

"We would urge all poultry keepers, regardless of their size, to follow the rules of the housing order and for good biosecurity protocols to be followed at all times."

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