The growth of the human population in the U.S. has slowed significantly since the 1990s, when the average annual increase was 1.24%. The Census Bureau estimates that, throughout the past three years, the U.S. population has only increased at an annual rate of 0.65%. But U.S. egg producers haven’t slowed the rate of expansion of the table egg layer flock, which increased at an average annual rate of 3% over the past three years, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. Per capita disappearance of eggs has increased in this three-year period, but not at consistently profitable prices.
U.S. egg producers have increased the total number of cage-free birds -- which includes organic, free range and regular cage free -- that they housed in the past three years from 37.6 million head in December 2016 to 70.8 million head in December 2019. During the same three-year period, the total number of table egg layers has increased from 311.6 million head to 340.5 million head. This means that, as U.S. egg producers added 33.2 million head of cage-free hens, the number of cage-housed hens only declined by 4.3 million head.
U.S. egg producers are going to have a very rough decade if they don’t reduce cage-housed hen placements by around the same amount that they add cage-free placements. The human population in the U.S. is growing at a slower rate, and higher retail egg prices in states that go entirely cage free will have a negative impact on egg sales volume. Couple all of this with what figures to be wild swings in demand for cage-free eggs as legislation enforcement dates arrive and in supply as new cage-free facilities come online, this figures to be a bumpy decade for egg producers.