I know, you’re wondering when I’m going to get over this fascination with the free range egg issue and get back to cute stories about the hens. Be patient, I’ll get there.
Meanwhile, I’m just fascinated with this story from Poultry and Egg News, an industry publication, in which the United Egg Producers call the struggle over free range vs. cage fed eggs a “war.”
In particular, a UEP vice president warns that without constant vigilance, what happened in Europe could happen here.
What happened in Europe? To hear him tell it:
“He pointed out that as late as 1999, Europe still had conventional cages.
Activists there have been successful in changing the rules for European layers with countries mandating enriched cages providing a larger area as well as a nest, perch and litter.
Conventional cages in Europe “are gone today and are not coming back, Gregory said, adding that the egg industry in Europe “has lost the battle.”
Lost the battle? Really? Let’s look at the UK egg industry as an example. Consumers now have a choice of buying eggs from hens kept in a larger “laying egg system,” or in a barn system, or free range. Free range eggs make up a solid 27% of UK production. And those free range hens are required to get just over 40 square feet of space each, which is not a bad deal by any chicken’s standards. The EU overall is self-sufficient when to comes to eggs, although there has been talk of stricter import standards, not just to keep EU egg farmers on an even footing economically, but also for health and safety reasons. Regardless, I have not heard of a huge egg shortage or egg crisis in Europe over slightly improved conditions for laying hens.