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USDA Data On Cage-Free Production For October 2023


EGG-NEWS summarizes and comments on data and trends in the monthly USDA Cage-Free Report. This data is correlated and interpreted in the WeeklyEggPrice and Inventory Report posted on EGG-NEWS mailed on Fridays each week.


The USDA Cage-Free Report covering October 2023, released on November 1st 2023, documented an unchanged complement of hens producing under the Certified Organic Program at 18.9 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 unchanged from September 2023 at 107.4 million. Hen numbers posted by the USDA over successive months or quarters are questioned if they demonstrate erratic fluctuation or are unchanged. This is based on the reality of a continuing cycle of placing pullets and depletion of old hens and with limited application of molting. The respective numbers of hens claimed for organic and cage-free flocks should reflect chick placements and correspond to monthly supply data and inventory over successive quarters.


Average weekly egg production for Certified Organic in October 2023 was up 0.6 percent compared to September 2023 with a hen-month average production of 82.3 percent. Average weekly flock production for cage free flocks other than Certified Organic was up in September 2023 by 0.7 percent with an average hen month production of 82.8 percent. 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. September data reflected a higher proportion of younger flocks derived from pullet chicks placed during April 2023.


Flock Size Average

(million hens)

September and Oct.






Q2- 2023


Q1 - 2023


Q4 - 2022


Q3 - 2022

Certified Organic







Cage-Free Hens







Total Non-Caged








Average Weekly Production (cases)





Certified Organic @ 83.3% hen/day


305,614 +0.6%

Cage-Free @ 82.2% hen/day


1,716,634 +0.6%

Total Non-Caged @ 82.4% hen/day


2,022,248 +0.6%


Average Nest Run Contract Price Cage-Free Brown

$1.68/doz. (Unchanged from September)

October Range:

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

FOB Negotiated October price, grade quality, loose nest-run.

Price range $0.87 to $2.10 per dozen

Average October 2023 Value of $1.23/doz.

($1.20/doz. September)


Average October Advertised National Retail Price C-F, Large Brown

$2.99/doz. October 2023 (5 regions)

(was $3.58/doz. September)

USDA Based on 5 Regions, 4,217 stores

 High: $3.85/doz. (NE & SE. 2,467 stores)

 Low: $2.33/doz. (MW. 1,497 stores)


Negotiated nest-run gradeable cage-free price for October 2023 averaged $1.23 per dozen down up by 2.5 percent from $1.20 per dozen in September 2023, reflecting higher demand relative to supply and a slight improvement in seasonal wholesale prices. The September 2023 advertised U.S. retail price for cage-free eggs over five regions (excluding NW, AK and HI) was $3.30 per dozen down 7.1 percent from September over 4,207 stores.


The apparent disparity between a recorded average wholesale price of $1.23 per dozen plus a provision of 60 cents per dozen for packaging, packing and transport in relation to the average 5-region retail price of $3.30 indicates a retail margin of 80.3 percent (149.5 percent last month) over wholesale price for packed eggs delivered to a DC. Margins are presumed higher for pastured and other specialty eggs at shelf prices reaching $8.00 per dozen. Chains that are maximizing margins especially on Certified Organic, free-range and pastured categories restrict volume of sales, ultimately 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 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.