Cage-Free Eggs: “A Very Large Price Tag”

Cathy Siegner, Food Dive 

| March 13, 2019

| Despite the exponential cost, some of the largest manufacturers and retailers in the country have pledged to go with eggs from cage-free hens.

A typical cage-free space is 144 square inches per hen, according to the United Egg Producers, while standard battery cages provide only 67 to 86 square inches.

Hens in cage-free production facilities also must have space to exhibit natural behaviors such as scratching, perching and nesting.

Producers are gradually transitioning to cage-free housing for hundreds of millions of egg-laying hens, which is no small feat.

And their progress is being monitored by both consumers and animal welfare organizations — indicating corporate pledges aren’t being taken for granted and focus will remain on the issue …

Even though transitioning to cage-free housing for egg-laying hens is expensive — some industry estimates have placed it at $40 more per bird — producers have incentives to get it done.

Studies show many consumers are willing to pay more for cage-free eggs and believe that eggs taste better and hens are happier when given more room.

Nielsen figures show sales of cage-free eggs jumped 10% in the 12 months ending Feb. 23.

However, other consumers say they’re more concerned about the retail cost and safety of eggs than the cage-free issue.

Because higher prices in 2017 reduced demand for cage-free eggs, Cal-Maine Foods, the largest producer and marketer of shell eggs in the U.S., said it was limiting its cage-free production that year …

Some companies have to make the transition to cage-free production or be in violation of the law.

California’s Proposition 12, which 61% of voters approved in November, requires all eggs sold in the state to be cage-free by 2022.

It also required more humane housing be established for pork and veal production. Read more. 

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