Since January 1, 2004, new EU legislation means all eggs sold in retail outlets must be labelled with their method of production.

These new rules are intended to improve consumer information and choice.

Just three labels are permitted: "eggs from caged hens" (battery eggs), "barn eggs" (from chickens kept in barns, not usually with any outdoor access) and "free-range eggs".

Eggs produced in the cruel battery system are now stamped with a code which allows the producer and farming system to be identified and the egg boxes must bear the appropriate label.

It had been found, however, that it is necessary to look carefully as many labels are in very small lettering on the side of the boxes, almost as if the producers are embarrassed to advertise the method of production.

Unfortunately, these new laws do not apply to producers selling their own ungraded eggs, direct to individuals for their own consumption.

This includes egg sales in markets and at farm gates. In these circumstances it is necessary to be cautious if you are concerned about the welfare of the hens from which your eggs come.

Eggs may be advertised as being from a local farm or from the stall-holders own hens, which gives people the impression they are free-range.

It is best to buy eggs which are clearly-labelled as free-range or organic.

P E Stevens
Eversley Avenue