Free-range poultry farmers are walking into the unknown after the Department of Agriculture extended mandatory housing of all birds until 30 April to prevent the risk of avian influenza.

For the first time, no Irish poultry products can be labelled as free range after St Patrick’s Day, the deadline for the maximum 12-week housing period allowed under EU legislation since restrictions were introduced on 23 December. According to guidelines issued by the Department of Agriculture and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), retail eggs face the strictest re-labelling requirements as they are the only poultry product that must display their farming method.