Most consumers buy eggs from cage systems

ATLANTA—A study of retail checkout scanner transactions indicates Americans are buying eggs from farms that use cage housing for their hens by a margin of 40 to one over eggs from cage-free systems.

That finding was published earlier this month on Feedstuffs, an online agribusiness news site. The data was compiled by Information Resources Inc. from 34,000 U.S. grocery and other stores.

IRI found that 92 percent of all eggs consumers purchased in retail stores in 2009 were from farms that used cage housing. Two percent were from cage-free operations, and 1 percent was from free-range operations.

Animal rights organizations have asserted that cage housing is inhumane and demanded that some retail and restaurant chains source their eggs from cage-free farms. In 2008, California banned caged egg production in a referendum after the Humane Society of the United States spent more than $3.5 million to convince voters that the practice was cruel.

United Egg Producers President Gene Gregory told FeedStuffs that that industry organization’s position has always been that consumers should be free to purchase the kind of eggs they want based on their budgets and personal opinions.

"Our farmers produce all of these kinds of eggs," he said. Gregory called it "disturbing" that animal rights activists are trying to limit consumer choices.

The IRI data indicates the average cost on
April 30 for a dozen large eggs from hens housed in modern cage systems was $1.10, while cage-free eggs averaged $2.99 a dozen and free-range organic eggs were $4.38 a dozen.

Last fall, UEP cited a study by a Washington-based agricultural economic consulting firm that indicated restricting consumer options to cage-free eggs would increase consumer cost by $2.6 billion or 25 percent annually and result in poultry farms with larger environmental and carbon footprints than those of farms with cage housing.

Contact Mitch Head, UEP, 520-398-7379

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