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A cage-free housing system.
Photo courtesy of Vencomatic.
on April 15, 2016

Retailers’ cage-free pledges demand millions of layers

Sortable tables show how many cage-free hens would be needed to meet needs of restaurants, grocers and distributors that have made cage-free pledges

U.S. egg producers will soon be challenged to produce more than 37 billion cage-free eggs annually, according to estimates from the United Egg Producers.

In an April 15 letter to its members, the egg farmer cooperative published a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Analytics Division estimating the size of the nation’s cage-free flock will need to expand to 139.5 million birds, a more than 900 percent increase from the current 12.96 million bird flock of conventional cage-free layers, by 2030.

If the switch to cage-free were made today, about 48 percent of the nation’s 276 million-bird total, non-organic table egg layer flock would have to be cage-free to meet demand coming from grocers, food distributors and restaurants with cage-free pledges.

Explore cage-free commitments through sortable tables

The report also analyzed 38 restaurant companies, five food distributors and 24 grocers who have committed to go cage-free by 2030. View and sort within the following tables to see when those retailers are due to go cage-free, their number of outlets around the U.S., how many eggs they need on an annual basis and how many hens would be needed to supply each retailer. The number of hens needed is estimated using the assumption a single hen will lay 270 eggs a year.

Restaurants committing to cage-free eggs

Food distributors committing to cage-free eggs

Grocers committing to cage-free eggs

Food manufacturer pledges will further impact cage-free hen need

The author of the estimate, Michael Sheats, director of the USDA’s Agricultural Analytics Division, said the estimates do not include food manufacturers committed to purchasing cage-free eggs. If they were included, he said, the figure could be as high as 65 percent of the current flock.

While cage-free hens only make up a small part of the nation’s overall layer flock, the cage-free flock is already expanding rapidly to meet demand for the commodity. Between 2008 and 2015, the total flock of cage-free layers – including both organic and conventional – increased by 148 percent, to 24.36 million from 9.8 million.

Interactive tables created using Infogr.am

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