23 March 2017 | Online since 2003

20 February 2017

Marks and Spencer gives financial commitment to free range egg producers in 'high risk' zones


Marks and Spencer is the first retailer to commit to continue paying the free range egg to producers in high-risk zones

Marks and Spencer has pledged to support free range egg producers who are forced to continue housing their birds after the end of February.

The retailer has written directly to M&S Select producers to assure those whose eggs are downgraded to barn from Mach 1 will still receive the free range egg price.

It is estimated that a quarter of the English free range flock may be hit.

Marks and Spencer is the first retailer to commit to continue paying the free range egg price to producers forced to continue housing birds after the end of February.

Housing order

A housing order was introduced across the United Kingdom in early December, and there have since been at least eight cases of H5N8 in the UK.

The housing order was extended until the end of February, but if birds remain housed after that date, then, under European Union law, they will lose their free range status.

The governments in Scotland and Wales have said that birds will be allowed out from March 1, although with strict bio-security measures in place.

In England the housing order will be partially lifted.

Producers in designated higher risk areas will have to continue housing their chickens or find a way of netting the area.

It is estimated that 25 per cent of the English flock will be in a higher risk zone.

'Near future will hold many challenges'

There have been concerns that producers whose eggs are downgraded to barn could lose 20 pence per dozen on their egg price, but Marks & Spencer says it will continue to pay the full free range price to M&S Select farms hit by downgrading.

"We understand that the threat of avian influenza continues to jeopardise both industry and livelihoods, and to cause uncertainty and worry for many of you," said head of agriculture and fisheries Steven McLean in a letter to producers.

"As Defra and devolved administrations start to make clear their requirements of free range producers beyond March 1, we acknowledge that the near future will hold many challenges."

He said: "In light of this uncertainty, we wanted to contact all of our producers directly and reassure you that we remain committed to source from M&S Select farms, regardless of the zone you find yourself in and the description that regulations will place on the eggs you produce.

Honouring free range price

Mr McLean urged egg producers to take the necessary veterinary advice prior to deciding the course of action for flock and farm

He said: "We will continue to honour the free range price for the eggs we purchase, regardless of whether your birds can range or not."

"In many cases we've enjoyed long associations with individual farms for over 20 years. We're very grateful for your continued support and want to reciprocate by reiterating our commitment to you at this time.

"It's equally important to us that our shoppers are provided with clarity of the current situation. You may have seen that we have applied a simple label on the carton and we've provided a more detailed explanation in relevant places in our store."

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