California egg producer transitioning to cage free
Gary West shares J.S. West’s plans to increase cage-free egg production in coming years.
J.S. West Milling Co. was the first egg producer to build, equip and populate an enriched “colony” cage layer house in the U.S. The company became a major proponent of enriched housing as egg producers lobbied for passage of the Egg Bill, which would have mandated a transition from conventional to enriched cages for the entire country.
The Egg Bill never passed. Proposition 2, when implemented, led to more space in cages for hens producing eggs for the California market, but not to cages with enrichments. Enriched cages just didn’t catch on. J.S. West is now adding cage-free capacity and planning to convert cage houses to cage free.
When asked about his company’s plans for building new cage-free facilities and for converting old buildings to cage-free equipment, Gary West, president, J.S. West, said: “J.S. West Milling Co. is planning new cage-free brooder houses to be built this year (2016) and two cage-free layer houses to be finished early next year (2017). We expect to increase the total number of cage-free layers as we convert our (existing) houses.”
“Our company plans to use existing high-rise buildings where we can transition from cages to cage free. These housing systems will be aviaries, and include all new equipment.”
West stopped short of saying J.S. West is completely converting to cage-free egg production.
“As you know, the use of cage-free systems costs more to produce eggs, consequently raising the price to the consumer," he said. "Many of our retail customers will continue to offer cage-free, caged production, organic, and many other forms which allows the customer to choose what they want. We feel this is a prudent decision. However, we will produce whatever eggs our customers want.”