Poultry International - April 2018 - 33
PoultryInternational ❙ 33
POULTRY PRODUCTION'S REAL FEED COSTS
cage-free eggs by 2025, the U.S. cage-free egg production
has nearly doubled. According to the American Egg
Board's October 2017 report, 15.8 percent of the U.S. flock
now consists of cage-free hens.
To meet the demand of buyers' cage-free commitment,
in less than a decade, U.S. egg producers must convert more
than half of their production to "cage-free systems," which
allow hens room to stand, sit, turn around and extend their
limbs without touching another bird or the sides of the cage.
According to the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply,
aside from the capital costs incurred by growers, feed costs
will increase as well: "While feed consumption per hen
was similar across all [production] systems ... feed cost
per dozen eggs produced in the aviary was higher because
production per hen declined more over the life of the flock."
Aviary systems had per dozen costs 36 percent higher
than conventional caged housing systems; enriched colonies
had costs 13 percent higher, the coalition reports.
Cage-free chickens require 15 to 25 percent more feed to
produce the same number of eggs as modern cage systems, a
United Egg Producers report states, estimating aviaries would
requiring an increase of 1.5 million tons feed.
Who picks up the tab?
As these evolving, consumer-driven production models
become the norm, producers and feed manufacturers will
need to step up to meet new cost, formulation and production
Today, at least with antibiotic reductions, much of the cost
is absorbed by the producer, but as time goes on, this may no
longer be the case. On the plus side, for example, according
to a 2015 Consumer Reports survey, more than half of U.S.
consumers are willing to pay more for antibiotic-free meat.
Slow-growth broilers have always and continue demand
premium prices, but they also appeal to a certain subsect
of the public. The U.S. egg industry, on the other hand, will
continue to struggle as it transitions to a cage-free model. ■
References available upon request.
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