NAEF Testifies Before Senate Agriculture Committee on Bird Flu

The National Association of Egg Farmers’ President Ken Klippen testified at the Senate Agriculture Committee’s hearing July 7th on the impact of avian influenza on the poultry industry.  Klippen said this virus was affecting every sized egg farmer, but the impact will be far greater with international trade impacting the entire economy.  He noted that 20% of the broilers are exported annually along with 12% of the turkeys and just under 5% of the eggs and egg products.  Klippen stated that 18 countries have already banned all poultry from the U.S. including China, South Korea, South Africa, and Russia.  Klippen also stated 31 countries have restricted trade with the U.S. from the infected regions or zones including Canada, Mexico, Japan, and the European Union.  Currently there are 48 countries worldwide reporting highly pathogenic avian influenza. Thomas Elam, President, FarmEcon LLC, from Carmel, Indiana also on the panel estimated a $3.3 billion loss from the depopulated chickens and turkeys due to this recent outbreak.  He added that a $1.2 billion loss could be attributed to the broiler meat industry, not from depopulated birds, but lost export markets with the chickens produced being sold domestically, increasing supplies and lowering prices.  Elam said that should this avian flu strike in Alabama and Georgia where the broiler industry dominates, the economic losses will be several magnitudes higher than what occurred with turkeys and eggs.


Klippen also reiterated the indemnification plan proposed to APHIS in May and urged the Senators to help keep the payment to egg farmers consistent with the federal regulations specifying future egg production. 



To see NAEF’s testimony, fast forward the time segment in the bottom of the screen to 1:49:05 to 1:53:14. Also the response to a key question at 2:09:19 to 2:09:59


General Mills Cage-Free Policy Has NAEF Urging Reconsideration


Mr. Kendall J. Powell

Chairman of the Board and CEO

General Mills, Inc.
P.O. Box 9452
Minneapolis, MN 55440


Dear Mr. Powell:


General Mills is recognized as one of the world's largest food companies with some of the most trusted bands including Häagen-Dazs, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, and Yoplait. Some of these products use eggs in their manufacture and that is why The National Association of Egg Farmers (NAEF), representing egg farmers nationwide, is disappointed in the decision by General Mills to switch to cage-free eggs.  We know that the company has been misinformed about egg production practices believing it is more humane or better from a food safety perspective.  Today’s modern conventional cages used in producing eggs provide:

  1. 1)A humane way of producing eggs

So here are the facts from today’s farmers concerning the welfare of the chicken. Every egg farmer knows that increasing the population size of a flock of chickens increases the stress on those chickens due to the establishment of a “pecking order” among the chickens.  The behavior inherent in chickens is to determine the social standing of the individual hens through “pecking” each other.  The individual chicken lower in the social order is pecked the most.  When chickens are housed in conventional cages with 6 chickens, the establishment of this pecking order is minimized compared to upwards of 60 chickens in the California-style enhanced, colony cages, and even more so in an aviary (cage-free chickens) with thousands of chickens.   The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a cooperative effort of animal scientists investigating the published research concluded recently that different housing systems (cage-free, enhanced colony cages, and the conventional cages used today by nine-five percent of egg farmers) are not significantly different in the stress among the chickens.  This compliments earlier findings by The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 2010 which released a report on different housing systems.  The report concluded consumers need to balance the hen’s freedom against exposure to potential hazards such as disease vectors and the cannibalism caused by pecking. Certainly cannibalism and pecking are welfare issues, and in conventional cages where the number of chickens is minimized, these concerns are reduced compared to the enhanced, colony cages or aviaries. 


Dr. Kenneth Anderson, a preeminent Poultry Extension Specialist at NC State University, presented his research findings to the egg industry at a conference in March 2010 where he noted that chickens reared in conventional cages had: 1)significantly greater numbers of Grade A eggs, 2)significantly greater numbers of total eggs produced,  3)significantly better feed conversion rates (meaning a lower carbon footprint),  4)better immune response (meaning better able to resist disease). Certainly these are indicators of a healthier chicken and thus better welfare.


2)Provide a safe and wholesome egg

In considering food safety, eggs laid on the floor in an aviary system have more pathogenic bacteria from contact with manure.  This is virtually eliminated in conventional cages where the birds stand on a wire and the manure falls below the cages and away from the eggs. As published in Food Control [47 (2015) 161-165] entitled "Microbiological Contamination of Shell Eggs Produced in Conventional [battery cages] and Free-Range" the authors from Clemson University reported Enterobacteriacea on egg shell surfaces were 90% greater in free-range over battery cages (conventional cages). Salmonella for free-range was 2.36% and 0 for battery while Campylobacter for free-range was 26.1% compared to 7.4% for battery eggs.


3)Provide a lower cost for a high quality protein product

Lastly, consumers benefit from conventional caged egg production with a lower cost for a high quality protein product.  The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply reported recently the cage-free eggs (aviaries) were thirty-six percent more expensive that conventional caged eggs and enhanced colony caged eggs were thirteen percent more expensive.  Over the past five decades of improving the welfare of the chicken and improving the food safety of shell eggs with today’s conventional cages, unfortunately companies and misinformed readers believe it is better to return to the old days when eggs were laid near manure or the chicken suffered from the pecking order. This is false and harms both the chicken and the consumer.

Today’s egg farmer, using conventional cage systems, is producing a safe and wholesome egg while providing for the needs of each chicken.


We urge General Mills to reconsider its policy of cage-free for the sake of the chicken, the farmer, and the consumer purchasing the company’s products.


Logic Prevailed in Rhode Island Battle of Bill to Ban Cages

The National Association of Egg Farmers believe that treating animals humanely is in the best interest of both the farmer and the chicken.  How do we know if were doing that?  By basing production practices on science and not emotion. 


In the 2015 Legislative Session of the State of Rhode Island was a bill that passed the House and went to the Senate (H5505) that would ban the production of eggs from chickens kept in cages.  Why chose Rhode Island for this battle.  There’s only one egg farmer producing eggs in cages; Little Rhody Farms.  Included in the efforts to persuade the Rhode Island Legislature, there was an effort to persuade the general public.  This took on the form of a televised video of chickens in cages filmed in another state.  Also the opposing groups wrote Opinion Editorials (Op-Eds) sent to newspaper; The Providence Journal in the Capital of Rhode Island.  Below are two links; the first is the Op-Ed submitted by the NAEF.  The second link is from HSUS attacking our position and NAEF’s President personally.  This is what is done by a desperate opponent fighting a losing battle.


This was a victory for NAEF at defending the only egg farmer in Rhode Island who produces eggs from caged layers by using the available science.  The Rhode Island Senate adjourned without considering the bill (H5505) to ban caged layers.  HSUS  attacking the National Association of Egg Farmers calling it a "fringe group" and its President as an "outlier in the egg industry" is just more misinformation from HSUS.  NAEF, has a membership base of 278 farmers, one of the largest egg farmer based national associations with some of those members also participating in the other national association representing eggs, thus refuting the charges of "fringe" and "outlier". Science and logic should always prevail over emotion. This time it did!




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