Under the terms of Council Directive 1999/74/EC, conventional cages will be banned as housing for laying hens in European Union countries as of Jan. 1, 2012. After that date the only cage systems permitted for EU layers will be of enriched types providing more space per bird.

Some member states have introduced tougher laws. Sweden has not allowed conventional cages since 2003, Austria took the same action in 2009 and Germany and the Netherlands will allow only colony cages from 2012.

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Our accompanying Table shows data collected by Eurostat for the European Commission on the recent trend in housing systems for European laying hens. Marktinfo Eier & Gefluegel in Germany has reported that 63% of German layers in 2009 were already housed in alternatives to conventional cages. Most cage systems in need of replacement to comply with the 2012 ban could be found in countries of southern and eastern Europe.