Once, mainly a concern of die-hard animal activist groups, the plight of the humble chicken is now thoroughly mainstream. Many consumers are choosing eggs laid by cage-free hens and many companies are making the pledge to convert their eggs as a result of consumer and investor pressures. Egg producers are in turn trying to keep up with the new demand for cage-free, free-range or pasture-raised eggs.
Q: What is the difference between the different types of eggs on the market?
A: Any carton simply labeled “eggs” means the hens are raised in small battery cages. There are typically multiple birds crowded into the wire cage, with no space to spread their wings or turn around. Some animal welfare experts believe the restricted movement and wire bars lead to generally stressed and sometimes injured and unhealthy hens.
Cage-Free eggs on the other hand are laid by birds kept indoors but not in cages. Nest boxes are available and the birds have space to spread their wings, move around freely and engage in their natural behaviors.
Free-Range eggs have the same indoor arrangement as cage-free hens, but also have access to a small fenced outdoor space.
Pasture-Raised eggs have similar conditions to the free-range arrangement, except the outdoor space is usually larger, unfenced, and includes natural vegetation for the birds to forage.
These descriptors and living conditions are not federally regulated, however, there are certifying bodies (Humane Farm Animal Care, United Egg Producers, American Humane Association, among others) working to protect consumers and ensure correct and honest labeling.
Q: What has caused the interest in cage-free eggs?
A: The move away from caged birds is an investor and consumer-led movement. Hoteliers have probably already received questions about the eggs on their menu, as more and more people become aware of the issue and care deeply about the provenance of what they eat. According to WATT Global Media, a media company servicing agribusiness, between September 2014 and September 2015, there was a 37% increase in the number of cage-free chickens, and that number is expected to more than double by December 2016 as demand soars. Putting even more pressure on egg producers is the nearly 200 U.S. companies (including every major fast-food and grocery chain) which have made pledges to exclusively source cage-free eggs by 2025.
Q: What can Avendra customers do to be more sustainable in their egg purchasing decisions?
A: Avendra works to provide our customers with the products that align with their business values and goals. Our customers have access to an impressive supply of cage-free egg options at competitive prices – including several cage-free processed/pre-cooked egg options that are not available anywhere else. Our industry experts believe demand will outpace supply over the next two to five years. Avendra customers can speak with their Account Managers to discuss their purchasing options.