The demand for cage free eggs is rising, but Vilsack questions whether consumers realize what it takes to make that possible. United Egg Producers President Chad Gregory says around 90 percent of egg farms currently produce eggs through conventional methods.
“To switch that 90 percent over to cage free, we’re looking at $45 per bird. So, a one million bird egg farm – which is about average these days – would cost $45 million dollars,” Gregory says. Around 160 companies have committed to selling cage free eggs, according to Gregory. Given what they need to meet demand, he says it’s a significant investment.
“The food companies and retailers who have made these announcements so far, they have collectively buy around 200 million birds on an annual basis. So you take those 200 million birds, times $45.00 per bird, and you get somewhere around 8 to 10 billion dollars,” Gregory says.
Switching to cage free doesn’t happen overnight, Gregory adds, and companies will need to make huge investments in time and resources to meet the goal of supplying only cage free eggs. Iowa is the nation’s top egg producer, with roughly 60 million laying hens producing nearly 15 billion eggs per year.
(Thanks Andrew Flinn, Brownfield Ag News)