The Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply is a multi-stakeholder group which collaborated on the Laying Hen Housing Research Project. The goal of this commercial-scale study of housing alternatives for egg-laying hens in the U.S. was to understand the sustainability impacts of three laying hen housing systems – cage-free aviary, enriched colony and conventional cage.

The research assessed animal health and well-being, food safety and quality, environmental impact, worker health and safety, and food affordability. The final report, which was released to the public after being shared with stakeholders at the Midwest Poultry Federation annual convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, explores the sustainability interactions and tradeoffs for these hen housing systems.

The American Humane Association, a coalition member and animal welfare advocacy group, said that the report supports its 2010 decision to endorse enriched colony (cage) housing for laying hens as an improvement over conventional cages.

Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association, said: “American Humane Association believes in science and this years-long research will help improve the lives of millions of laying hens on our nation’s farms. Our American Humane Certified farm animal welfare program was the first humane certification program to adopt enriched-cage housing as a humane way to house hens back in 2010, and the new findings strongly support the initial research that was considered to make this decision. The research identifies a sustainable egg supply by providing evidence to support attainable and affordable egg production that ensures animal welfare.”

“When animals are involved, evaluating their welfare is a crucial aspect of any production system,” said Dr. Marion Garcia, chief veterinary officer at American Humane Association. “But to truly achieve sustainability, a variety of other factors such as the environment, the health and safety of the workers, food safety and quality, and affordability of what’s produced should also be considered, effectively evaluating the entire system.”