After a one-year hiatus, the animal feed, poultry and meat industries returned in-person to Atlanta for the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE), the largest U.S. gathering of producers and processors.

My first visit to IPPE (then called Southeastern) was 36 years ago. I attended this event first as student and want to be researcher looking for a job, then as a member of the turkey industry looking first for new live production technologies and later for processing equipment innovations, and finally for the last two decades as member of the media covering the poultry and feed industries.

While the trade show proper kicks off on Tuesday January 25, 2022, my IPPE really kicked off on Monday afternoon at the United Egg Producers (UEP) committee briefings. The crowd at the briefings was large and engaged. It was encouraging to hear discussion of industry opportunities and challenges with few mentions of COVID-19. 

Some egg producers expressed relief that the Supreme Court recently ruled against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for employees of companies that employ more than 100 workers. For egg producers and other employers, COVID vaccination mandates aren’t just a political piñata for Sunday morning show pundits. For employers, the mandates would have exacerbated an already tight labor situation on egg farms and processing facilities.

As 2021 ended, I’d expected the transition of the California and Massachusetts egg markets to cage-free to be big topics of discussion at the UEP gathering. It wasn’t. So far, eggs meeting the Proposition 12 requirements in California have been available in adequate quantities. The next states to require all eggs to be from hens housed cage free will be Nevada, Oregon and Washington State all with an implementation date of January 1, 2024.

The combination of state cage-free egg mandates coming online by January 1, 2025, and if cage-free egg purchase pledges by foodservice, retail and food processors outlets are honored by the buyers, demand for cage-free eggs will exceed supply in 2025. That’s a big “if,” but it is a certainty that egg producers can’t convert housing at the rate that would be required to cover these pledges.

Looking forward to getting on the show floor to see new technologies, glad to be back in Atlanta.

Read more from IPPE.