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Cage-Free Report February 2023


USDA Data On Cage-Free Production For February 2023 


EGG-NEWS summarizes and comments on data and trends in the monthly USDA Cage-Free Report, correlating and interpreting the data posted weekly on the EGG-NEWS Egg WeeklyPrice and Inventory Report.


The USDA Cage-Free Report for February 2023, released on March 1st 2023 documented a 4.0 percent reduction in the complement of hens producing under the Certified Organic Program to 16.8 million (rounded to 0.1 million). The number of hens classified as cage-free (but excluding Certified Organic) and comprising aviary, barn and other systems of housing was up 4.9 percent from January 2023 to 98.2 million. A two month increase of 10.2 million hens is considered unrealistic given that the average number as reported by USDA over the past nine months was 87.9 million with 88 million in December 2022. Comparable values for hens over successive months are questioned given the continuing cycle of placing pullets, expansion of facilities and depletion of old hens, with some depopulation due to HPAI but with limited application of molting. The respective numbers of hens claimed for organic and cage-free flocks should reflected the realities of supply and demand in the market over successive quarters.


Average weekly egg production for Certified Organic in February 2023 was down by 5.1 percent compared to January 2023 with an average of 82.0 percent on a hen-week basis. Average weekly flock production for cage free flocks other than Certified Organic was up in February 2023 by 3.7 percent over January 2023 with an average of 80.9 percent on a hen-week basis Seasonally, younger flocks increase the availability of cage-free and organic eggs in response to pullet chick placements laid down in anticipation of pre-Easter and pre-Christmas demand. Average flock production in January 2023 should not have included any HPAI depopulation, but reflected a number of older flocks some of which were previously molted together with the relatively higher production from pullet chicks placed during August 2022.


Flock Size Average

(million hens)






Q4 - 2022


Q3 - 2022


Q2 - 2022


Q1 - 2022

Certified Organic







Cage-Free Hens







Total Non-Caged








Average Weekly Production (cases)





Certified Organic @ 83.6% hen/day


267,075 -5.2%

Cage-Free @ 82.5% hen/day


1,544,252 +3.7%

Total Non-Caged @ 82.7% hen/day


1,811,327 +2.3%


Average Nest Run Contract Price Cage-Free Brown

$1.64/doz. (May ‘22 through Feb. ‘23: $1.64)


$1.15 to $2.79/doz. (unchanged since Sept. ‘21).

FOB Negotiated February price, grade quality, nest-run. Loose. Price range $3.10 to 3.90 per dozen

Average February 2023 Value of $3.29/doz.


Average Advertised National Retail Price C-F, L, Brown

$4.99/doz. February 2023

(was $2.67 January 2023)

USDA Only 1-Regions*

 Only NE Region recorded by USDA

*Comprises only NE Region based on 65 stores.


Negotiated nest-run gradeable cage-free price for February 2023 averaged $3.29 per dozen down by 33.8 percent from $4.97 per dozen in January 2023 reflecting higher demand. The February 2023 advertised  U.S. retail price for cage-free eggs in the NE Region was $4.49 per dozen. The absence of data reflecting egg prices for five regions denotes a profound deficiency in the ability of the USDA to obtain and analyzed retail price data. Eggs are priced on the shelf for review and IRI data is available.


The apparent disparity between actual wholesale and retail prices since the onset of HPAI suggests that chains are maximizing margins especially on Certified Organic, free-range and pastured categories. This strategy restricts volume of sales and is to the disadvantage of producers.


Based on the importance of cage-free production, the USDA-AMS issues their report on volumes and prices at monthly intervals for the information of Industry stakeholders. There is obvious doubt as to the accuracy of individual monthly flock numbers especially when reports show a marked change from the previous month in a quarter or no change in the cage-free flock for sequential months. It is suggested that USDA should consider a quarterly report with more accurate and consistent hen data. This would be more useful to the industry for planning and marketing decisions.


Subscribers are referred to weekly USDA wholesale and retail prices posted in the EGG-NEWS Egg Price and Inventory Report E-mailed each Friday. The previous Monthly Cage-Free Report is available under the STATISTICS Tab.