Letter: Free-range eggs in the wrong basket

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Sir: Fortunately not all free-range hens are kept under the conditions portrayed in your article, 'Foul play in the great egg controversy' (1 September).

EC egg regulations have been worded to permit eggs to be described as free-range when hens are kept with even less space than in battery cages. Also, the birds need have little opportunity to venture on to land outside their cramped conditions in a dimly lit, windowless house shared by perhaps tens of thousands of de-beaked inmates.

EC regulation number 1274/91 states that eggs may be marketed only if they are described using one of four terms - Free Range Eggs, Barn Eggs, Deep Litter Eggs or Eggs. This last category, usually prefixed with 'farm fresh', are intensively produced battery eggs. Conveniently for the producers, regulations do not allow them to be described on the box as battery eggs.

True free-range egg producers like myself do not appreciate the adverse publicity being given to suppliers of the national supermarkets. Unfortunately even though we produce a superior product with higher welfare standards, EC regulations prevent us from describing the eggs any differently on the box.

I have now been told I am no longer allowed to put the laying date on my egg boxes. It's a pity I have to rely on the French voters to register my disapproval of the Maastricht agreement.

Yours faithfully,




2 September