Top US egg producer rankings for 2018: Cage-free surplus
The rush of cage-free egg future purchase pledges in 2016 led to rapid expansion of cage-free production and a surplus of cage-free eggs in 2017.
The number of hens housed cage free in the U.S., excluding organic, has increased from 8.5 million in 2014 to 35 million in January 2018, a 317 percent increase, according to USDA estimates. In spite of the large number of pledges by restaurant chains, food service distributors, retail outlets and food companies to purchase only cage-free eggs by some future date, the demand for cage-free eggs has not kept up with the increase in supply. As a result, both Cal-Maine Foods and Rose Acre Farms, the country’s two largest egg producers, both announced adjustments to their cage-free programs.
Read the entire report about US egg producer rankings for 2018 exclusively in the February 2018 issue of Egg Industry.
During its earnings report for the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, released on October 2, 2017, Cal-Maine Foods’ CEO Dolph Baker said that because the supply of cage-free eggs is not consistent with the demand, the company has adjusted its cage-free egg production levels in line with the current customer demand. Also in October, Rose Acre Farms announced that it was at least temporarily discontinuing the addition of cage-free laying systems, or as CEO Marcus Rust put it, the company is “shutting [its] construction program down.”
In contrast, Michael Foods Inc. Post Holdings CEO Robert V. Vitale said he feels “very comfortable” with the way its Michael Foods subsidiary is matching the production of cage-free egg products with the demand. “We are moving along with our customers and trying to be supportive of their overall initiatives in this area, so our capacity is very nicely matched against the demands,” Vitale said while speaking during a November 17 conference call. Michael Foods is one of the largest egg products companies in the world and is not a significant supplier of retail shell eggs.