Cage-free egg production behind pace necessary to meet 2025 goals

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Many U.S. food companies have pledged to move to sourcing eggs raised in cage-free houses by 2025. Consumer demand has influenced many companies including the likes of Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, Subway, etc., to make the commitment. Cage-free egg production is considered by many to offer more humane and more sustainable options for hens.

But WATT AgNet reports that the rate of transition to cage-free housing is at half the pace necessary to meet the promises of supplying the cage-free goal by 2025. WATT cites the 2019 Egg Industry magazine’s Top Egg Company survey which shows that poultry producers are behind a pace necessary to meet that goal in conversion of their current structures or construction of new facilities to raise hens in a cage-free environment.

Cage free eggs_egg producer predictionsThe article reports, “To achieve the average prediction from the 2019 Top Egg Company survey, 43 percent of all hens housed – for the U.S. cage-free layer flock, additional cage-free housing for 88 million hens would need to be built or converted in the next six years.” That figure equates to a conversion or new construction of housing for 14.67 million cage-free hens per year.

Back in December of 2016, the USDA pegged the total U.S. cage-free layer population at 37.63 million head. During the past two years, according to December 2018 numbers, the total U.S. cage-free layer population had grown to 51.16 million head, an increase of only 13.53 million head in two years.

However, those numbers represent a shortfall in the rate of conversion necessary to supply companies who have promised to transition to cage-free eggs by 2025. According to WATT, conversion to cage-free houses during the past two years is less than half the rate needed to achieve 43 percent of hens in cage-free houses by 2025.

Experts note that passage of Proposition 12 in California may absorb the production of as many as 32-million additional cage-free hens as soon as 2021.

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