Chad Gregory, president and CEO, United Egg Producers (UEP), said that in his 19 years of working with egg producers  he has never seen this level of disagreement on a matter as he sees now regarding what the future of cage-free egg production will be in the U.S.

He said that even in the discussions proceeding the board votes on the laying hen welfare agreement with the Humane Society of the United States, a consensus developed around making the agreement.

Gregory told the audience at the UEP’s Legislative Board and Committee meetings in Washington, D.C., that the entire board votes on the welfare agreement with HSUS, which ultimately became the Egg Bill, came out around 2-1 in favor of the agreement. No such consensus exists on what the future holds for cage-free egg production in the U.S. among UEP board members.

Three-way split

He described the current situation as, “A third of the board of directors is trying to get cage-free as fast as they can, a third that think this is a mistake and we should defend conventional cages and enriched colony cages, and the third that is in the middle really doesn’t know which way this is going.”

Some producers think that not moving quickly on cage-free standards will let activists and others decide what is and isn’t acceptable as cage-free egg production. Others think that consumers may still be given the choice to buy cage-produced eggs at the retail level and that a total conversion to cage-free isn’t inevitable, so they don’t want to do anything to encourage the switch.

“Every producer has a strong opinion and all of the groups are hunkered down and don’t seemed to be swayable,” Gregory said. He explained that he wants egg producers to come together and create a consensus. He said “If we don’t come together as a board, then we follow. UEP has always led.”