The impact of the switch out of conventional cages in the European Union was amongst the topics discussed at the Poultry Forum, held as part of EuroTier 2012. Despite not all the countries meeting the January 1 deadline, and significant declines in some European Member States, the European Commission forecasts that European egg production will be higher in 2013.

2012 will end with total European egg production slightly lower, largely as a result of the switch out of conventional cages but also, to a lesser degree, as a result of a decline in per-capita consumption. However, the region remains self-sufficient in eggs, and the often-predicted collapse in the industry has not occurred. 

Yet the changeover has not been without its problems. As recently as 2010, 45.5 percent of the region’s layers were still housed in conventional cages. Many countries failed to meet the January 2012 deadline for full compliance, resulting in the European Commission issuing proceedings against 10 member states.

This was enough to spur most into action and, by mid-year, all but three countries were compliant. Yet, in this last-minute dash to comply some countries saw their output decline significantly. Spain, for example, is expected to end the year producing 15 percent fewer eggs.

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Greece, Cyprus and Italy have yet to comply with the cage ban, according to the most recent European Commission documents. While the number of layers kept in conventional cages has declined in Italy over recent years, at mid-year, some 17 million birds were still housed this way.

Compliant ahead of deadline, Germany saw a decline in egg production in 2009 and 2010, while in 2011 and 2012 there was a recovery. A slight increase in output is forecast for 2013.

This variation in compliance has caused some to be upset with producers who have complied and so, while not legally binding, a gentleman’s agreement has been adopted by Europe’s Member States under which eggs from non-compliant farms can only be used for processing, and only in the country where they were produced. This has, however, resulted in some distortion of trade. 

Despite these difficulties, the European egg market is expected to be well supplied in 2013.