Progress in Conversion from Cages to Alternative Systems


A recent video and accompanying publicity by McDonalds highlighted progress in sourcing eggs from cage-free flocks. The company claims to be purchasing one third of its egg requirements from flocks housed in other than cages. It does not break down the proportions required for egg liquid and for shell eggs. McDonalds has a target date of 2025 to be completely cage-free.

The recent announcement by McDonalds is in all probability a response to claims made by competitors. Starbucks, obviously not in the same volume-league as McDonalds, is totally cage-free for shell eggs and sources one third of egg liquid from non-caged flocks. Unilever with a strong E.U. influence claims to be 96-percent cage-free. Burger King has extended its cage-free target for complete transition to 2025 from an earlier commitment of 2017.

In calculating the proportion of hens transiting to alternative systems, a clear distinction should be made between the shell egg and liquid markets. In reviewing the April 1st USDA Cage-Free Report, 19 percent of a total national flock of 325 million hens were housed in other than cage-confinement. In selecting a base of 225 million hens supplying the shell egg market, the proportion is 27.5 percent. After a hiatus of over a year, integrators are now placing orders for aviary systems with a combination comprising conversion of cage houses and new facilities approaching 10 million hen places. It is estimated that a new complex requires an investment of $40 per hen and conversion ranges from $25 to $30 per bird.