Stuart Agnew MEP, the UKIP Agriculture spokesman, has called for a new approach from DEFRA over the latest outbreak of avian flu.
Mr Agnew said, "It is obvious & understandable that the ministry vets would prefer to keep all poultry indoors until at least a month has elapsed from an Avian flu incident. They are bowing to industry pressure by allowing poultry outdoors in specified areas.
"This will create a divide in the free-range poultry sector causing as many problems as it solves.
"For those producers who can let their birds out they are expected to follow very strict bio-security rules that attempt to 'sanitise' an area of around 25 acres which is impossible in practice", he said.
There are recommendations for example to fence off risky areas of the range, this could have the effect of technically making the remaining range too small to qualify for official free-range status. On the other side of the coin those producers (about 25%) who must keep their birds in are obliged to market their produce as 'barn' for an economically disastrous price.
Mr Agnew has proposed a series of practical actions that would go some of the way to ensure the situation doesn't create a crisis in the industry,
He said "It is essential that;
1. We get rid of this disease from our country as quickly as possible.
2. That consumers are not misled into being sold something that is not what it says on the box.
3. That the free-range sector stands together.
He further suggested that "supermarkets approach their free-range suppliers with the following deal.
1. All birds remain shut-up until the ministry vets are happy to give a national 'all-clear'.
2. Eggs from all free-range sites are sold as 'emergency free-range' at a small discount to the previous price.
"The word 'emergency' should alert the consumer to the fact that there is a problem for which they receive a small discount in the knowledge that things will improve. All the producers can just about manage until the crisis is over.
"British geneticists have recently bred chickens that whilst susceptible to catching Avian flu from wild birds cannot pass it on to other birds. However, it required the GM technique to achieve this. Perhaps consumers may view this technology more favourably".