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Cage-Free Report


USDA Data On Cage-Free Production For April 2023


EGG-NEWS summarizes and comments on data and trends in the monthly USDA Cage-Free Report, correlating and interpreting the data posted weekly in the Egg Weekly Price and Inventory Report in EGG-NEWS mailed on Fridays each week.


The USDA Cage-Free Report for April 2023, released on May 1st 2023, documented a 3.4 percent increase in the complement of hens producing under the Certified Organic Program to 18.2 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 1.0 percent from March 2023 to 103.2 million. For March 2023 USDA reported a two-month increase of 8.4 million hens, considered unrealistic for a single month suggesting an undercount over recent previous months. Comparable hen values posted by the USDA over successive months are questioned given the continuing cycle of placing pullets, expansion of facilities and depletion of old hens, with no depopulation in 2023 due to HPAI and with limited application of molting. The respective numbers of hens claimed for organic and cage-free flocks should reflect the realities of supply and demand in the market over successive quarters.


Average weekly egg production for Certified Organic in April 2023 was up by 4.4 percent compared to March 2023 with a hen-month average production of 82.5 percent in April. Average weekly flock production for cage free flocks other than Certified Organic was up in April 2023 by 1.7 percent over March 2023 with an average hen month production of 81.4 percent in April. Seasonally, younger flocks increase the availability of cage-free and organic eggs in response to pullet chick placements laid down 22 weeks previously in anticipation of peak seasonal demand periods. Average flock production in April 2023 should not have included any depopulation due to HPAI, but reflected a number of older flocks some of which were previously molted together with the relatively higher production from pullet chicks placed during October 2022.


Flock Size Average

(million hens)







Q1- 2023


Q4 - 2022


Q3 - 2022


Q2 - 2022

Certified Organic







Cage-Free Hens







Total Non-Caged









Average Weekly Production (cases)





Certified Organic @ 82.5% hen/day


   291,980     +4.4%

Cage-Free @ 81.4% hen/day


1,633,213      +1.7%

Total Non-Caged @ 81.6% hen/day


1,925,193     +2.2%


Average Nest Run Contract Price Cage-Free Brown

$1.68/doz.   (May ‘22 through March ‘23:  $1.64)

April Range:

$1.35 to $2.35/doz. (unchanged from March)

FOB Negotiated April price, grade quality, nest-run.  Loose.     Price range $0.75 to $1.75 per dozen

Average April 2023 Value of $1.10/doz.

($3.00/doz. March)     


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

$3.50/doz. April 2023 (3 regions only)

(was $4.15/doz. March 2023)

USDA Based on 3-Regions* (excluding SC, NW & SW)

 High: $3.50/doz. (SE & NE)

 Low:  $3.49/doz. (MW)


*Comprises 523 stores.


Negotiated nest-run gradeable cage-free price for April 2023 averaged $1.10 per dozen down by 63.0 percent from $3.00 per dozen in March 2023 reflecting lower demand relative to supply and a sharp restoration of seasonal wholesale prices. The April 2023 advertised U.S. retail price for cage-free eggs over three regions was $3.50 per dozen.    


The apparent disparity between a recorded wholesale price of $1.10 per dozen plus a provision of 55 cents per dozen for packaging and packing and an average 3-region retail price of $3.50 indicates a retail margin of 52.1 percent. Chains that are maximizing margins especially on Certified Organic, free-range and pastured categories restrict volume of sales that is disadvantageous to producers.


Based on the importance of cage-free production, the USDA-AMS issue the Cage-Free 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 at the end of a quarter or from the previous month or in past years, or alternatively 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. Price data is available each week from other USDA reports.


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