Britain to Let Poultry Back Outdoors as Bird Flu Threat Recedes

London, BR (Reuters) — A mandatory housing order for poultry and captive birds in Britain is to be lifted, effective May 2, with the threat of bird flu now decreasing after the country's worst-ever outbreak.

The four Chief Veterinary Officers, with responsibilities for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, announced the move in a joint statement today (April 25), opening the way for the production of free range eggs to resume.

On Nov. 29, Britain made it a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the United Kingdom to keep birds indoors.

European Union rules, which Britain still follows, allows for free-range laying hens to be kept inside for up to 16 weeks in the event of a bird flu outbreak and their eggs can still be labelled free range.

Since March 21, however, all eggs from free-range birds that were being housed have had to be labelled as barn eggs.

"Poultry farmers have worked incredibly hard to minimize the threat of Avian Influenza and it will be a great relief that they can now allow their birds outdoor access again," James Mottershead, chair of the National Farmers Union poultry board, said in a statement.