Eggs

Background 19 comments

Cost differential between cage-free laying systems

Moving hens into cage-free environments involves additional costs and new challenges, but egg producers can address these in part by focusing in on 5 factors. Surprisingly there is a large cost differential between types of cage-fee laying systems.

Many food retailers across North America, Europe, and even Asia have pledged to source 100% of their eggs from cage-free facilities in the next 5 to 10 years. This has created uncertainty for the egg market and among egg producers about how to successfully manage laying hens in cage-free systems while maintaining profitability. Further complicating matters is the fact that the definition of “cage-free” is somewhat unclear and differs depending on the country and regulatory or verification agency. This has left producers uncertain on how to switch to cage-free housing, the system to switch to, and how to manage birds under these systems.

Aviary systems enable higher stocking densities and ensure full movement of birds. The systems encourage birds to carry out natural behaviors such as nesting and perching, and provides access to floor litter. Photo: Vencomatic Group
Aviary systems enable higher stocking densities and ensure full movement of birds. The systems encourage birds to carry out natural behaviors such as nesting and perching, and provides access to floor litter. Photo: Vencomatic Group

Three main types of cage-free systems

There are many different types of cage-free systems. The most commonly employed designs are:

  • floor raised
  • aviary
  • enriched colony cages

Each of these systems has its own advantages and drawbacks to be considered when converting to cage-free production.

Aviary systems enable higher stocking densities and ensure full movement of birds. The systems encourage birds to carry out natural behaviours such as nesting and perching, and provides access to floor litter. This allows increased movement, exercise, and flight for the laying hens, bringing associated welfare advantages but this type of system also creates farm management challenges.

Enriched cages allow birds more movement plus amenities such as perches, scratch pads, and nesting areas thus facilitating greater feed and health care practices.

Floor housing systems provide birds full access to litter and movement including perches and nesting for comfort.

The aviary and floor housing systems have the distinct disadvantage in that the birds are exposed to litter and excreta, creating potential health and food safety concerns.

Cost differential

In a 2010 study by the USA Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES), a Midwest layer farm was examined using 3 different housing systems over 3 years covering 2 laying cycles. The housing systems examined were aviary housing, an enriched colony system, and conventional cages.

The research examined various productivity parameters and factors relating to 5 sustainability areas, being:

  1. animal health and well-being
  2. food safety and quality
  3. environment
  4. worker health and safety
  5. food affordability

As illustrated in Table 1, the study showed that total operating costs in the aviary system were 23% higher than conventional cages. The operating costs of the enriched colony were slightly higher (4%) than conventional cages. Overall, the aviary system was the most expensive to operate in all cost categories. The study examined production parameters across 3 housing systems on a single farm, at the same location and employed the same accounting definitions for consistent biological and financial measurement within each housing system.

Higher mortality and associated issues

One interesting observation from the study revealed that hen mortality in the aviary systems was 2.5 times higher than conventionally caged hens with a mortality rate of 11.75% and 4.7%, respectively (Table 2, Figure 1). Higher mortality in the aviary system was mainly attributed to hypocalcaemia, vent picking/pick-outs, prolapses, bumble foot, and birds simply getting caught or injured in the cage structure. With higher rates of hypocalcaemia, aviary birds may have an additional calcium demand due to changes in laying behaviour and calcium metabolism. As such, hen behaviour and mineral nutrition should be further investigated to reduce this mortality rate.

Figure 1 – Average cumulative mortality (%) in various layer house systems.

New way of thinking

In today’s market-driven environment, consumer demand needs to be considered and addressed across the entire food production system. With this, a new way of thinking is emerging on how we view the nutrition and health programmes of conventionally raised laying hens versus those in cage-free environments. Updated research and reviews on nutrition and health programmes must be undertaken to determine the revised nutrient requirements and potential health strategies to be employed under this enhanced welfare standard for laying hens. In closing, all production factors such as bird genetics, nutrition, health, and management need to be considered in order to raise welfare-friendly hens as desired by consumers.

19 comments

  • Brad Mandryk

    Leslie - you should correct the "2010" date noted in the "Cost Differential" paragraph of the article that refers to when the study was completed. I see the charts note a 2016 study date however readers may wonder why a 2010 study was initially considered as valid data today - thanks !!

  • David Burch

    In a large survey in the UK (Weeks et al, 2012) reported the mortality in 375 cage bird flocks to be 5.39% (sd 3.05), 66 barn flocks 8.55% (sd 8.94) and 831 free-range flocks at 9.52% (sd 7.41). Mortality, as an indicator of welfare, is also important. Of particular interest was the variation (sd) this was much higher in the barn and free-range flocks. Not all flock systems are bad but great care needs to be taken managing these none-cage systems.

  • RLC Joerissen

    What would happen if we would ask the chicken where she likes to lay her eggs? I believe that the most sustainable system for the future is an enriched family pen system.

  • Kevin Kevin

    If you need High Quality Chicken Cage, contact my email: poultrycn@gmail.com and whatsapp: +8615515963558.
    Our Videos, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-YB_MxAwTB1w_xQAEzLodQ?view_as=subscriber

  • michael jones

    Allassignmenthelp is one of the finest websites I have stumbled upon. It is not only well developed, but has good content as well. It could prove to be an inspiration for many students for their assignments. Assignment Help Online is into assignment writing service sector and helps pupils in completing their academic tasks.
    https://www.allassignmenthelp.com/

  • Sharon Barke

    Posting the link to the study released earlier this month: http://www2.sustainableeggcoalition.org/final-results

  • EM miller

    Having trust issues? Don’t want to trust any random assignment help company online? Need online Assignment Help services? Well, if you fear to trust any random company online then its ok, you can acquire best Assignment Help services from the most reliable and trusted assignment help company of the globe Expertsminds. Get legitimate academic services and best assignment help and online tutor services for your college and university assessments and secure higher academic grades. http://www.expertsminds.com

  • ammie jackson

    Losing sleep over unfinished essays but can't afford the assistance of costly essay writers? Wondering whether the online service providers will do my essay cheap in UK? Facing a deadline for finishing the essay? Well, your anxieties end here. We have with us a team of cheap essay writers for UK students who can solve all your writing issues so that you score high grades in your essay assignment. They will deliver the completed essay to you well before the deadline. With decades of experience in helping students, this team of professional academic experts is the best in UK. https://myassignmenthelp.com/uk/cheap-essay-writer.html

  • Alvin Hopkins

    In finance dissertation a wrong selection of topic, the writer may have thought about scrapping the content and starting all over again from the scratch. Thus, a lot of time will be wasted to find finance dissertation ideas. To make it easier for you, we have listed 30 brilliant topics, which can make the whole process of writing finance dissertation much easier.
    https://dissertationproviders.co.uk/blog/finance-dissertation-topics

  • Rufus Jones

    Unlike battery hens, cage-free hens are able to walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests, vital natural behaviors denied to hens confined in cages. Most cage-free hens live in very large flocks that can consist of many thousands of hens who never go outside. https://mybk-experience.com

  • Max Willor

    This post is not just informative but impressive also. The post is so convincing that it created an urge to choose Assignment help services. https://www.myassignmenthelpau.com/

  • andrew symond

    This post is really informative post.. If someone needs report writing singapore services then hire our experts. https://www.singaporeassignmenthelp.com/report-writing-help/

  • anamika singh


    I am Anamika Singh. I offer Escorts services in Mumbai only. I am an independent girl who offers call girls service and escort service in Mumbai to entertain you. My Escort Service Agency is very soft And proper behaviorist, every escort service provided by us will be a pleasure for you Mumbai Escorts http://www.escortserviceinmumbai.org

  • nikki heysen

    Lots of various https://www.studentsassignmenthelp.com/ Students Assignment Helpers working online for students assistance. You have to make a right decision and choose the best one. StudentsAssignmentHelp.com having best team of academic writers that hold advanced degrees and have a great knowledge in the field of study. They are giving you a timely assistance.

  • RR Rise

    Every client, especially those seeking dissertation assistance, get our best performance:
    Complete confidentiality. No one at your school or in your family will learn about your little secret. Highest quality research. Our writers know full-well how to collect credible data, perform in-depth analysis and write highly convincing theses.
    Visit this site https://speedypaper.app/

  • w wells

    its very usefull post about poultry industry. by this post every one can understand the usefull of eggs and chicken. https://tutuapp.wiki/

  • w wells

    The Liteblue USPS remains for United States Postal Service, https://liteblueuspslogin.blogspot.com/ fundamentally these Liteblue administrations are utilized by the postal divisions.

  • siena william

    We are proud of our all assignment help by experts because of their dedication towards providing continuous support to students by helping them meet deadlines and scoring better grades. Hiring an expert to write your work is easy but hiring the RIGHT expert to get it done is a challenge. Let us help! We will do the assignments for you while you burn the midnight oil on the hat you wish to pursue as a career. Once you get familiar with this structure, it will very easy for you to write a high-quality, flawless report. You can reach out to My Assignment Services as we have a well-maintained team of R-Programming assignment help who cover almost all the subject lines. An ideal essay must incorporate ideas in order that makes sense to the readers. Structuring an essay successfully is a difficult task, therefore My Assignment Services serve students with the most reliable essay writing help, we have the best team of essay writers that help you in the best possible way, and get you the grades you want, and learning from the best possible source within the least possible time.


    Visit us: -

    https://www.myassignmentservices.com/
    https://www.myassignmentservices.com/r-programming-assignment-help.html
    https://www.myassignmentservices.com/essay-writing-help.html

  • mr george

    webmail tcs : Latterly, Tata Consultancy Services has intinerated its Webmail on a VPN. At present, it is troublesome to access tcs webmail in your PCs & Mobiles out of the TCS consortium. If you are here to find an easy way to access your TCS Webmail on your mobile or computer then here is a nimble affix for your https://webmailtcs.xyz/ fix.

Load more comments (15)

Or register to be able to comment.