Monday, September 14, 2009

About Cage-Free Egg Production

I recently contacted an egg producer who raises both cage and cage-free eggs. I offerred three perceptions I had about cage-free egg production and asked them to respond. My perceptions were...

(1) Brown birds are used in cage-free egg production because they lay brown eggs and consumers want cage-free eggs to be brown

(2) Brown birds are calmer in an open system around people, which makes them preferred in a cage-free system.

(3) Brown birds are also more aggressive towards one another, which is a reason mortality rates are higher in cage-free systems.

Those were my three perceptions, and the farmers' response is below (I omitted parts that would reveal the farm's identity)...

My observations of brown vs. white birds are somewhat along the same lines yours but I would like to point out a few other things that go along with this. I have found in my tenure here at xxxx that our brown birds do tend to be a little more docile in a cage free environment, but they also tend to be more docile in the cage as well. White birds can be trained through good management practices to do well in a cage free environment but as you say, the consumer has repeatedly shown that they want a cage free egg to be brown. As to the heightened mortality in a cage free system, I think it has little to do with the aggression of the birds but more to do with the fact that the birds have more room to pile on one another causing suffocation and the fact that cage free environments create a breeding ground for parasites detrimental to the birds. Hence the fact that coccidiosis tends to be a problem in a cage free system and not cage systems.