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Bugger that for a game of soldiers

Eggs laid by hens kept in barns for months on end could be classed as free range under changes being considered by the Government to keep farmers competitive with Europe.

Ministers are considering tearing up free-range egg rules, amid concerns proposals in the EU risk putting UK farmers at a disadvantage.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, led by Therese Coffey, is understood to be weighing up changes to rules that currently mean eggs cannot be classed as free range if birds are indoors for more than 16 weeks, Whitehall sources said.

No, not the right thing to be doing at all.

whatever you might think about free range and all the rest. Whatever the rules are, stick to them. Then people can see the costs – and assume whatever benefits they think there are – of their decisions. If free range gets more expensive then, well, free range gets more expensive. Prices are, after all, information. Why would anyone want the consumer to be less informed?

14 thoughts on “Bugger that for a game of soldiers”

  1. In the 21st Century, there does seem to have arisen a firm and widely held belief that calling something by a different name actually alters that thing physically.

    Funny that years ago this was regarded as “advertising puff” (Carlill v Carbolic Smoke ball co.) and 600 years ago “a rose by any other name” made the point that rebranding was a load of old…

    You can rename a failing hospital, but patients keep dying. You can give up with the phrase “Global Warming” to include any weather you like as proof of its existence. But although it sounds better, educated people know it’s a load of old…

    And wasn’t TC an adviser on the NHS a couple of days ago? How long is a long time in politics now?

  2. Total value of egg exports is about £120m/annum. Which means it probably has a marginal value of £5m/year. Square root of fuck all. Why is government screwing consumer information for that?

  3. Whereas I agree that changing the name doesn’t change the nature, this is specifically about trading into the EU which is about to indulge in stupid redefinition. If the law is altered to say “free range must be free range unless dealing with idiots who make the term meaningless, in which case you can lie your head off to them” I’d be perfectly happy.

  4. ‘ Why would anyone want the consumer to be less informed?’

    So they can more easily be manipulated and duped by politicians and vested interests in crony-cahoots.

    ‘Then people can see the costs – and assume whatever benefits they think there are – of their decisions. ‘

    Nope. ‘People’ can see the costs and yell ‘rip-off’, led by the Daily Mail about nasty profiteering because businesses should operate like charities and with ‘social responsibility’. Government must do something about it.

  5. Symptoms, always symptoms – nobody looks at root cause. Instead of arguing about what should be classified ‘free range’, ask why that designation is used in the first place – to what end?

    We have ‘free range’ to bend to the demands of ‘animal rights’ activists and make putty-brained consumers with more money than sense feel warm and fuzzy, and of course protectionism for the farming lobby to keep Johnny Foreigner’s eggs out because he is beastly to poor little chicken-licken… sob. There is no evidence free range hens are better off than barn hens, or even caged birds.

    What should be done is get rid of classifications such as free range, organic, responsibly sourced (whatever that means), sustainable, etc. They are all a con. There is even ‘free range’ milk – when did fields stop being free range?

    Without the labels or price differential to give clues, no trial has ever shown consumers or experts can tell the difference. So let people chose on price and their tastebuds.

    Interesting example Waitrose… they sell ‘specially produced for Waitrose’ ‘free range’ eggs for £1 per six (just gone up to £1-25). Why so inexpensive? Because they are white and dildo-brained consumers think brown eggs are ‘better’ for them, because that’s what cheffy-types and food/environment writers in the Papers have told them.

    Brown ‘free range’ in my local Waitrose sell for between £3 and £5-65 per six. From my experience the white, less expensive eggs are tastier than the more expensive ones.

    Interesting observation (mine): the more people are concerned and emote about animal welfare, trees, the Planet and other abstractions, the less their concern for Humans, particularly the fate of children.

  6. Total value of egg exports is about £120m/annum.

    It’s not about exports, it’s about the impact of imports. Because of temporary legislation regarding Avian Flu, the EU is (considering) redefining “free range” to include barn-kept chickens. That means EU eggs will be labelled “free range” when they are not. If we don’t do the same, then British consumers will buy misleadingly named EU eggs over British eggs because those latter will be labelled as “barn eggs”.

    We could ban the import of such mislabelled goods but that would result in a trade war. It’s more pragmatic to just join the fibbing until this strain of Avian Flu fucks off.

  7. I read somewhere that brown hens (that produce brown eggs) are aggressive and have to be debeaked, while white hens are more sociable so don’t have to suffer this cruel (?) and costly procedure.
    My local Tesco does not sell white eggs, though the Chestnut Marams are quite tasty.

  8. One can’t be sure that this isn’t DEFRA -like the rest of the Rolls Royce Trabant civil service- simply pushing for alignment with the EU for alignment’s sake.

  9. The obvious thing to do is to special-label UK eggs exported to the EU.

    These could be sold in the UK, but require an explanatory label which says these do not meet the requirements of the UK definition of ‘free range’ (which is free range) but do meet the EU standard (which is barn-raised or free range)

    You’d have to special-label eggs sold in EU because they will undoubtedly have described the labeling in exquisite detail – and the detail wouldn’t include the wording of the UK clarification.

    This is simply meeting the requirements of the market in which they’re sold. You sell eggs or anything into a country, the product has to meet the requirements of said country. No need to change your own standards. Yes, this puts costs up for the exporter – which is (if costs are to go up) the right place for them to be.

    I’m sure current egg inspectors can handle the massive extra complexity.

  10. So the usual EU practice of redefining a term to protect some group (usually the French) that doesn’t want to follow the rules
    Thanks for the explanation above that it’s avian flu related in this case

  11. “There is no evidence free range hens are better off than barn hens, or even caged birds”

    According to a mate, who manages a large chicken farm, “Free Range” birds only need to HAVE ACCESS to the outside of a barn for one hour a day. They don’t even have to set foot outside if they don’t want to…

  12. …brown hens (that produce brown eggs)

    I’m not a farmer, but I don’t think that’s how chickens work.

  13. We keep two types of hens some that produce brown eggs (Commercial Brown hens) and some that produce much lighter or white eggs (Beechwood Blue hens). We’ve found no difference in taste or quality between the two. The colour of the chicken’s feathers does not in my experience decide egg colour the breed or strain of chicken does. Chicken genetics is a fascinating subject that I have not completely got my head around but it throws up some interesting anomalies such as the fact that although the Ross 308 ‘Frankenchicken’ hybrid meat chickens are partially derived from fighting cock stock they are the most docile, easy to rear and tasty birds. They are also, surprisingly for chickens bred to be brought up in sheds, pretty good at adapting to open air life.

    People have I agree been hoodwinked into believing that brown eggs are ‘better’ when they are not. Also supermarket customers have been led to believe that imperfections on an eggs shell such as calcium deposits or colour variations affect egg quality, they do not. This leads to the odd lighter coloured eggs or eggs with slight shell imperfections either being dumped because the supermarkets won’t take them or sold into the catering market at a much lower price.

    None of my chickens are debeaked. That seems to be more of a practise for those who cage hens as all chickens can be aggressive and aggression seems more common when chickens have less space. Chickens will also eat anything including other chickens if you are not careful as we found out when we lost a Frankenchicken during the heatwave and we had to rush to get the dead chicken out before the other chickens canibalised it. The other chickens were gathered around their dead colleague probably thinking ‘Hmm! It’s extra protein’.

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