Taiwan has banned new battery cage farms for egg-laying ducks. It is the first country in the world believed to issue such a ban.
Duck eggs are popular in Taiwan and are typically consumed pickled or salted, or in processed food products such as mooncakes.
The Council of Agriculture statistics reports that there are 2.16 million laying ducks (mostly the Brown Tsaiya variety) across about 400 farms in Taiwan. Together, these ducks lay approximately 400-500 million eggs per year and make up a local duck egg industry of more than USD$60 million per year.
Most are of these laying ducks are housed outside of cages; however, a growing number of producers are confining their flocks to cages. According to estimates by the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), approximately 400,000 laying ducks (20%) were kept in cages in Taiwan in late 2019.
Ducks are sensitive creatures who depend on water to maintain their eye, bill, and foot health, to keep their plumage in good condition, and to regulate their body temperature, notes EAST, adding that ducks raised in cages suffer higher rates of wounds and foot injuries due to the abrasive wire floors, they exhibit abnormal behaviours like head bobbing due to stress, and mortality rates are 2-5 times higher.
This ban, which follows the publication of undercover investigations by EAST and We Animals Media in 2019, prohibits new duck egg farms from housing laying ducks in battery cages. Farms that do not adhere to the ban will be denied registration. Unlike for chickens, Taiwan’s regulations provide no definition of enriched cages for ducks and so the new rules effectively rule out all forms of cage farming.
The US is the largest export market for Taiwanese duck eggs, making up more than half of the total export value. According to US customs data compiled by EAST, shipments to the state of California accounted for 81.4% (1,379 tonnes) of all Taiwanese duck eggs imported into the US in the 5 years from 2016 to 2020. In 2020, the equivalent of two container loads of Taiwanese duck eggs was unloaded at California ports per week. On 1 January 2022, the sale of cage eggs, including duck eggs, became illegal in California.