Is there room for any further production system innovations? Absolutely, particularly when it comes to cage-free production, says Mark Oldenkamp, vice president, northwest operations for Valley Fresh Foods, Woodburn, Ore.
Rather than retrofitting existing operations to cage-free, Oldenkamp sees the possibility for new, intensely managed aviary production system complexes in the future.
Unlike what has occurred in Europe, Oldenkamp does not believe "enriched cages" will be used in the United States, noting that enriched cages offer no bird performance advantage, nor are they an improvement for bird liveability. He says, however, that "certain consumers may want to push us that way."
The challenge, Oldenkamp says, is to educate consumers about the United Egg Producers science-based animal welfare guidelines. Despite current cage-free challenges, such as attempts to put measures on caged production before the public on ballots in California and Colorado, "I believe cages will be used."
Oldenkamp also sees the likelihood that producers will have to make environmental changes in the years ahead in their production systems, such as possibly using filtration systems to reduce dust to meet air quality guidelines, and changing feeding practices to reduce nitrogen.