Retail findings show Americans buying mostly cage-produced eggs

ALPHARETTA, Ga.—Something to ponder while doing the holiday baking: The United States is the fifth-greatest per capita consumer of eggs, at 246 eggs per person each year, according to the International Egg Commission.

Mexico is the highest per capita consumer at 355 eggs per person each year, followed by China, Japan and the Czech Republic.

Eighty-five percent of eggs worldwide are produced in traditional cage systems, according to the IEC. That’s the kind of eggs most U.S. shoppers purchase, according to Information Resources Inc., which tracks grocery store sales.

U.S. consumers purchase 19.8 billion traditionally produced eggs annually—96 percent of total egg sales—according to IRI third-quarter 2010 data. They buy 619 million cage-free eggs, 3 percent of total sales, and 227 million organic free-range eggs, which account for 1 percent.

"Americans vote every day with their wallets, and regular eggs from modern cage housing systems win every time by a landslide ratio of 96 percent," said Gene Gregory, president of United Egg Producers.

In cage housing systems, groups of about six hens live together in a manner that allows farmers to systematically provide them with fresh food and water and collect their eggs quickly.

In order for 20 billion eggs to be produced safely and affordably, "chickens must receive proper care, food and water. The modern cage housing system does that in a very efficient and affordable manner," said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

"The cage housing system that’s used to produce eggs in the United States and abroad evolved over decades based on producer experience and scientific research. Producers are only able to obtain the level of egg production they have reached because chickens respond favorably to the production system."

U.S. Department of Agriculture study findings released earlier this year indicate no substantial quality differences among eggs from different production systems or between white and brown eggs.

Contact Banks at 804-290-1114 or Mitch Head, United Egg Producers, at 520-398-7379.

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