Legislation Leads to More Farmers Going Cage-Free

Legislation Leads to More Farmers Going Cage-Free


The housing of chickens producing eggs in conventional battery cages has been banned in Germany since 1 January 2010 – two years earlier than the deadline laid down in EU legislation. Since then, it has only been permitted to keep laying hens in small-group housing systems, barn and free-range systems or in organic production systems. Major changes in production structures have taken place in Germany. In 2008, around 60 per cent of all laying hens were still kept in conventional cages and small-group housing systems. Following the ban on conventional cages, the proportion of laying hens kept in small-group housing systems and 'enriched cages' is now just 13 per cent, according to the Federal Statistical Office.


As of December 1, 2012, a total of 36.6 million laying hens were kept in Germany. (The figures include farms with space for at least 3,000 hens). This is 7.5 per cent more than in December 2011. There was a particularly sharp rise in organic production with a 17 per cent increase between 2011 and 2012. However, it is worth noting that this growth started from a relatively low level. There were also increases in the number of laying hens kept in barns (up 9.1 per cent) and free-range systems (up 8.7 per cent). Meanwhile, the number of laying hens kept in cages was down 4.5 per cent.

The current overall housing capacity can accommodate around 42 million hens. 26.8 million of these spaces (64 per cent) are in barn systems, 6.1 million (14.6 per cent) are in free-range systems, and 5.5 million (13.2 per cent) are in enriched cages and small-group housing systems. Around 3.4 million spaces (8.2 per cent) are in organic production.


Veterinarian Reports Egg Farmers Regretted Investment in Enriched Cages


On the final day of the Midwest Poultry Federation Convention in St. Paul, MN, Dr. Atoussa Mazaheri, Company Veterinarian with Lohmann Tierzucht in Cuxhaven, Germany reported that the German egg farmers who installed the enriched colony cages in that country regretted it. Dr. Mazaheri repeated that statement during her presentation saying the animal rights activists were not satisfied and are pressing the retailers to go cage-free altogether. Germany is an important barometer for the failure of enriched colony cages as that country implemented the installation in 2009 before the EU-wide law (EU Council Directive 1999/74/EC) went into effect January 2012. Those “good intentions” by the German Bungestag yielded more problems with the re-emergence of poultry diseases that had been previously eradicated since 1998. These included Erysipelas showing a drop in egg production upwards of 15% and mortality of 30%; Blackhead which can only be cured with penicillin, but not allowed in poultry in Germany; and Pox (Fowl Pox) which has a mortality ranging between 10-50%. Dr. Mazaheri stated privately she was not trying to engage in a political discussion on the subject of enriched cages, but to simply state the experience in Germany.

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