The egg industry experienced a year of transition in 2016. The year ended with companies rocked by the avian influenza outbreak of 2014-15 almost fully recovered and restocked. Meanwhile, major egg companies put plans in motion to increase their cage-free egg output in the future. Several called cage free the future of the industry.
The top 20 egg producers – according to data from Egg Industry's Top Egg Company Survey, which is part of WATT Global Media's database on the world's leading broiler, turkey and egg producers – are ranked according to the size of their layer flock at the end of 2016. More information about the companies can be found by clicking on the company's name or visiting the top poultry companies database.
Collectively, the top 20 companies account for 230.92 million birds.
1. Cal-Maine Foods Inc., 37.94 million hens
Cal-Maine Foods Inc. is the largest egg producer in the U.S. and the world. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 37.94 million hens. Cal-Maine produces white and brown cage-produced eggs, cage-free eggs, free-range eggs, organic eggs and nutritionally enhanced eggs. It also produces liquid egg products in institutional or bulk packaging.
In fiscal 2016, its net sales were $1.908 billion, an increase from the $1.576 billion it reported the previous year. During the fiscal year, specialty eggs – nutritionally enhanced, cage-free and organic eggs – accounted for 29.1 percent of the company’s shell egg revenue. Cal-Maine opened its fiscal 2017 with quarterly net losses of $30.9 million and $23 million, compared with net income of $143 million and $109.2 million in the same two quarters of the previous year. In his quarterly statement published in December 2016, CEO Dolph Baker said the U.S. egg market is dealing with an oversupply situation created by the lingering effects of the 2015 avian influenza outbreak. Egg producers are restocking hens and populations are nearing pre-outbreak levels, but demand from domestic and export markets is not keeping pace with the increased supply.
In April 2015, Cal-Maine announced a joint venture with Rose Acre Farms Inc., the second-largest U.S. egg company, to build a cage-free egg production facility near Bogata, Texas. Stocking began in March 2016 and the facility is expected to house about 1.8 million birds in early 2017. In June 2016, Baker said the company has invested $160 million in capital outlay projects around the country to improve its capacity to produce cage-free, organic, conventional and California Proposition 2-compliant eggs. In November 2016, the company completed its acquisition of Foodonics International Inc. and its entities doing business as Dixie Egg Co.
2. Rose Acre Farms Inc., 25 million hens
Rose Acre Farms Inc. is a family-owned egg farm and is the second largest egg producer in the U.S. and the third largest egg producer in the world. Affiliated and subsidiary corporations include Rose Acre Farms International, Marshall Egg Products, Johnson County Egg Farm and NEPCO Egg of Georgia. As of December 31, 2016, its layer flock included 25 million hens.
In April 2015, Rose Acre entered a joint venture with top U.S. egg company Cal-Maine Foods to build a cage-free egg production facility near Bogata, Texas. Stocking began in March 2016 and the facility should be populated with about 1.8 million birds in early 2017. The company’s new, $80 million cage-free egg farm near Bouse, Arizona, was expected to open in fall 2016. The complex is intended to house as many as 3 million birds.
In May 2016, the company prevailed in a 10-year-old “dust and feathers” dispute over its emissions from a farm in Hyde County, North Carolina. The company settled with the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, but the terms of the settlement were not released. Rose Acre expected to open a new, $5 million corporate headquarters building in Seymour, Indiana, in early 2017.
3. Hillandale Farms, 18 million hens
Hillandale Farms is one of the U.S.’s leading suppliers of shell eggs. It has production facilities in the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast, and supplies retailers and distributors throughout the eastern U.S. In 2015, Hillandale completed its purchase of three egg farms in the eastern U.S. owned by Moark L.L.C., the layer division of Land O’Lakes Inc. As of December 31, 2016, its layer flock included 18 million hens.
In July 2016, the company announced plans to shift its production from conventional to cage-free housing systems. Chief executive Gary Bethel said all future expansion at Hillandale’s farms will be cage free and all existing facilities will be replaced by cage-free barns as they age. The company is building new cage-free houses in Hicksville, Ohio, and Bozrah, Connecticut. Both facilities should be completed by the end of 2017.
4. Versova Holdings L.L.C., 17.1 million hens
Versova Holdings L.L.C. is a food company formed in May 2016 to manage the combined day-to-day operations of egg producers Centrum Valley Farms L.L.P., Trillium Farm Holdings L.L.C. and Iowa Cage-free L.L.P. Centrum Valley, Trillium and Iowa Cage-free will continue to exist independently. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 17.1 million layer hens.
Versova will serve as a holding company with a new management team overseeing business functions of Centrum, Trillium and Iowa Cage-free. It will handle marketing, customer relationships, information technology, operations, feed management, human resources and finance.
Versova produces shell egg products, including white and brown cage-produced eggs and cage-free eggs. It also produces liquid egg products.
5. Rembrandt Enterprises, 14.7 million hens
Rembrandt Enterprises, doing business as Rembrandt Foods, is privately held and focuses on producing egg products for the foodservice and ingredients industries. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 14.7 million hens. Rembrandt produces its egg products from white and brown conventionally produced eggs, cage-free eggs, free-range eggs and organic eggs. Its products include liquid egg, dried egg, and hard-cooked peeled eggs. Rembrandt produces consumer and institutional or bulk packaged egg products. In 2017, it plans to launch a 90 percent protein egg white isolate product for the sport and senior nutrition markets.
The Iowa company was rocked by the 2014-15 U.S. outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza. It lost more than half of its layer flock to the disease. In September 2015, the company announced its plans to repopulate its layer flocks during the next 12 to 14 months and bring workers back to their jobs.
With the avian influenza outbreak behind it, the company plans to make cage-free eggs the company’s standard going forward and to tighten up biosecurity in its Iowa facilities. In April 2016, Rembrandt said it plans to build a cage-free production site at an existing facility in Lake Preston, South Dakota. Construction began in 2016 and stocking will begin in 2017. The facility will house about 3 million birds when fully stocked.
6. Daybreak Foods Inc., 13 million hens
Daybreak Foods Inc. is privately held and is involved in shell egg and egg products production. Its layer flock includes 13 million hens. It produces conventional white eggs and liquid egg products.
7. Michael Foods Inc., 12.96 million hens
Michael Foods Inc. is a leading food processor and distributor with business in egg products as well as refrigerated grocery and potato products. The company is the largest supplier of processed eggs in the world. The company is owned by Post Holdings Inc., which purchased it from GS Capital Partners for $2.45 billion in 2014. In 2015, Post completed a $90 million acquisition of Willamette Egg Farms, at the time the 30th largest egg producer in the U.S. The 2016 rankings contain Willamette Farms’ birds. As of December 31, 2016, its layer flock included 12.96 million birds.
Michael Foods was deeply affected by the U.S. avian influenza outbreak of 2014-15. In its 2016 annual report, published in November 2016, Post said the repopulation of its egg supply is nearly complete. It called the outbreak a “generational event” which disrupted Michael, but it predicts normalization by the end of fiscal 2017. Michael’s egg products accounted for 28 percent of Post’s $5.026 billion in net sales in fiscal 2016.
In a December 2015 statement, Michael Foods announced it will become an advocate for cage-free eggs with consumers and customers. In August 2016, the company, calling cage free the future of the egg industry, said it will convert a layer farm in Bloomfield, Nebraska, into a cage-free operation between spring 2017 and 2020. At that site, 32 layer barns will be replaced with 12 cage-free houses.
In February 2016, Burnbrae Farms, Canada’s largest producer of table eggs, entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of Michael Foods Canada (MFI Food Canada). In September 2016, Post Holdings agreed to acquire National Pasteurized Eggs. The transaction is expected to close in early 2017. In November 2016, Post CEO Rob Vitale said mergers and acquisitions will remain a priority for the company going forward. In December 2016, Post announced it will pay a $75 million settlement to settle an egg-related class action lawsuit filed in 2008. The payment will end Michael’s involvement in the case.
8. Center Fresh Group, 9.7 million
Center Fresh Group is owned by eight Iowa farm families. The company is comprised of five divisions involved in egg production: Center Fresh Egg Farm, Sioux County Egg Farm, Hawkeye Pride, Sioux County Pullets and Center Fresh Africa-Mozambique. The U.S. farms are located in Iowa and Ohio. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 9.7 million hens. Center Fresh produces conventionally raised and cage-free eggs as well as liquid egg products.
The company’s Iowa flocks were affected by the 2014-15 U.S. avian influenza outbreak. In June 2015, the company was sued by Michael Foods, one of the U.S.'s largest egg producers, for allegedly breaching its egg supply contract after the avian influenza outbreak and keeping Michael Foods from meeting its supply obligations. In May 2016, Chief Operating Officer J.T. Dean told Bloomberg News that Center Fresh lost about 5.5 million birds, but it expected to be at full production capacity by the end of 2016.
9. Midwest Poultry Services L.P., 9.5 million hens
Midwest Poultry Services L.P. is an Indiana-based shell egg producer for the retail market. It is a family-owned business that employs 500. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 9.5 million hens. The company produces conventional white eggs, cage-free eggs and nutritionally enhanced eggs.
10. Prairie Star Farms, 9.4 million hens
Prairie Star Farms markets the combined egg production of Rindler Poultry, Ross-Medford Farms, Hoosier Pride and J Star Farms. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 9.4 million hens.
11. Hickman’s Egg Ranch, 9.1 million hens
Hickman’s Egg Ranch, also known as Hickman’s Family Farms, is the largest shell egg producer west of the Rockies. It is a family-owned business with hens in Arizona and Colorado, distribution operations in Iowa, Nevada and California and customers from Iowa to Hawaii. It has about 300 full-time employees. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 9.1 million hens.
In December 2014, the company announced it would add 300,000 cage-free hens through its partnership with Colorado Egg of Hudson, Colorado. In September 2015, Hickman’s announced plans to add two new cage-free egg operations in Tonopah and Arlington, Arizona. The planned facilities will house 2 million hens.
In September 2016, Central Valley Eggs L.L.C. – a partnership between Hickman’s and Opal Foods – began construction of a cage-free egg production and processing facility near Wasco, California. The facility could begin shipping eggs in early 2017. According to a January 2016 release from Opal Foods, Central Valley intends to build four, 2.5 million bird cage-free farms by 2020.
12. Weaver Brothers, 7.8 million hens
Weaver Brothers Inc. is a third-generation family farm operation still owned and managed by the founders. The company offers cage-free and organic products and employs 350. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 7.8 million hens.
In December 2014, Weaver Brothers created a joint venture with Cooper Farms through a 50-50 purchase of the Perham Egg facility in Fort Recovery, Ohio, which opened in July 2014. The new company, which is called CW Egg Products, produces liquid egg products. The new owners have indicated they will increase production at the facility and add layers to support this expansion. In November 2015, Weaver Brothers purchased a new warehouse in Russia, Ohio, as part of expanding its biosecurity efforts.
In June 2016, the company announced completion of construction of two new organic, cage-free egg farms and plans for two new cage-free layer farms with capacity for more than one million birds each in partnership with Cooper Farms and others local farms. In the announcement, Weaver Brothers called cage-free and organic production the future of its company, and said it will focus on growing those areas.
13. Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, 7.35 million hens
Herbruck's Poultry Ranch Inc. is Michigan's largest egg farm, producing 60 percent of Michigan's eggs. As a fully integrated business, Herbruck's is involved in breeding, agriculture, feed and fertilizer production. The company also partners with 25 small farms to produce organic and cage-free eggs. Due to a Michigan state law passed in 2009, by 2019 all layers housed in the state must be able to fully extend their wings without touching the side of an enclosure or another hen, and have the ability to turn around freely.
As of December 31, the company’s layer flock included 7.35 million hens. Herbruck’s produces white and brown conventionally raised eggs, cage-free eggs, organic eggs and nutritionally enhanced eggs. It also produces liquid egg products, consumer packed and institutional or bulk packaged egg products.
In May 2014, the company announced plans to invest $33 million in its Saranac, Michigan, production facility over the next three years. The company received a $750,000 performance-based grant from Michigan to support the construction of the facility in June 2015. In April 2016, Herbruck’s announced plans to build a new facility – including a feed mill and depot building for flock services – in Topeka, Indiana. The new facility is expected to be fully staffed and operational in early 2017. In the same month, it announced plans to expand an operation in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, by adding poultry barns to house cage-free and organic laying hens. In December 2016, a local newspaper in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, reported the company was seeking state permits to build a $90 million cage-free operation including eight barns that could house as many as 2.4 million hens.
14. Fremont Farms of Iowa, 7.1 million hens
Fremont Farms of Iowa L.L.P. is a producer and processor of liquid egg products. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 7.1 million hens.
15. ISE America Inc., 6 million hens
ISE America Inc. is a totally integrated egg laying and production operation. The company is a subsidiary of ISE Inc., headquartered in Japan. ISE Inc. entered the chicken genetics and breeding industries in Japan in 1912. As part of the company's continued research into uses for eggs in the human diet, the ISE Egg, a lower-cholesterol egg, was developed and marketed beginning in 1989.
As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 6 million hens.
15. Sparboe Farms, 6 million hens
Sparboe Farms is a major shell egg producer and marketer in the United States. Its subsidiary Sparboe Foods provides egg products. The company also owns Agri-Tech, which produces premixes for lower feed cost. As of December 31, 2016, its layer flock included 6 million hens.
17. Opal Foods L.L.C., 5.6 million hens
Opal Foods, an entity created by Visalia, California, private equity fund AGR Partners, was launched in May 2014 with the acquisition of Moark's Midwest operations. As of December 31, 2016, its layer flock included 5.6 million hens.
Opal Foods began with 5.6 million laying hens at farms in Missouri and Colorado, as well as a new farm in Neosho, Missouri. The Neosho farm will eventually be home to 800,000 cage-free hens, which will bring the company’s total hen head count to more than 6 million. Opal Foods reported that many of the purchased farms had recently been renovated to comply with California’s future production standards, and some are among the most modern in the country. Opal Foods will be a franchisee of Eggland’s Best and will continue serving the same customers. The company expects annual sales in excess of $200 million.
In January 2016, Opal announced Central Valley Eggs – a partnership between Opal and Arizona-based Hickman’s Egg Ranch – intends to build four, 2.5 million-bird farms in California by 2020. In the announcement, Opal said it was completing a 1.2 million-hen cage-free expansion in Missouri and recently began construction on a 1.5 million-hen cage-free complex in Colorado.
In September 2016, local news organizations in Fresno and Visalia, California, reported a $300 million Central Valley complex capable of housing more than 3 million cage-free hens was under construction. The complex would be the largest in the state and could be shipping eggs in early 2017. In total, the four planned farms could house as many as 10 million birds.
18. Kreider Farms, 5.1 million hens
Kreider Farms supplies shell eggs to supermarkets and wholesalers in the northeastern United States and sells cage-free eggs under the Noah’s Pride brand. Kreider is the largest egg producer in Pennsylvania with facilities in Mount Joy, Manheim, Middletown and Mount Pleasant. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 5.1 million hens. Kreider produces white and brown eggs, conventionally raised and cage-free eggs, organic eggs and nutritionally enhanced eggs.
In April 2016, Kreider Farm’s cage-free flock gained American Humane Certified certification from the American Humane Association.
19. Gemperle Farms, 4.91 million hens
Gemperle Farms produces a variety of types of eggs, including organic and cage free. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 4.91 million hens. In March 2016, the company announced its intention to convert all of its operations to cage-free production by 2024. The 2016 rankings contain birds acquired from the purchase of Valley Fresh Foods.
20. Wabash Valley Produce, 4.67 million
Wabash Valley Produce Inc. engages in egg and turkey production. As of December 31, 2016, the company’s layer flock included 4.67 million birds. It produces conventionally raised white eggs, cage-free eggs, as well as liquid and dry egg products.