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Eggs -Pinched from Cornwall Smallholders web site

If you are in the Cornwall Trading Standards ‘Made in Cornwall’ scheme you will have received a notification from Defra regarding the new registration for poultry flocks of over 350 hens coming into force this year. But did you notice the little paragraph at the bottom?

It states that: From 1 July 2005, ungraded eggs sold at local public markets will need to be marked with a code identifying the method of production and the establishment, irrespective of the flock size. Consequently, some producers who are currently exempt from these requirements will need to register before 30 June 2005.

Being of a rather suspicious disposition, we decided that further investigation was required, by phone. After being sent from pillar to post, as is the Defra way of trying to put you off asking silly questions, we finally landed at a place in Bristol.

It would appear to us that there is some confusion over the interpretation of the term ‘local public markets’.

Firstly I will give you my idea of the history behind this legislation. One of our European cousins, Germany, had a problem. Some of their unregistered egg producers were gathering eggs from different small producers and selling the eggs for them. This is not allowed under the present regulations as you are only allowed to sell your own produce. So the Germans came marching onto the scene with all flags flying and trumpets blowing, pronouncing that they had a master plan. They will register every single laying hen in Europe and mark it with an eartag. Then eggs would be marked with this number so the eggs could be traced back to the hen of origin who would have to answer for any defects.

But joking aside, the result was this piece of legislation above drafted in Eurospeak and the term local public markets was translated from this. Now local public markets is a very woolly term when you think about it. It could mean the equivalent of a Par Market, or it could mean the market for eggs from people passing your door. So which meaning do you think Defra are using? Every other EU country looks at this piece of ludicrous legislation and puts it into the ‘not received bin’, but good old Defra gets hold of it and gold plates it! So we have been told by Defra that this legislation will not only apply to eggs sold through markets but to every single egg that leaves the premises of production - even if the eggs are given away!

 Now if we look a bit closer at the legislation we can see further difficulties. There are three legal classes of eggs on sale to the public, all with the appropriate rules attached to them. Class 1 - free range, class 2 - barn eggs, class 3 - eggs from caged birds. So which class do we put an egg from a bird that lives in a chicken coop which is moved across the new grass every day, or a hen which is let out during the day if the weather is fine and locked up at night against predators, or hens allowed to roam freely round the farmyard? The possibilities are endless. And what about marking maran eggs with the regulation red ink? Who is going to be able to read it? We were told that the rubber stamp and ink will cost about £25 but no price available yet for the cost of registration.

 So it is up to us to make as much stink about this legislation as possible and remember that this is Defra’s interpretation of a directive written in a foreign language. Write to your MP, MEP, and any one else you can think of, pointing out how unworkable this legislation is. It’s not too late, the rules do not come into force until 1 July 2005, but please do your bit now.

 One final thought - do you think that this is going to stop German housewives selling each others eggs? They may well just have one stamp that they pass among themselves. Come to think of it though!!!!