Egg Farmers of America Position Paper Opposing Egg Legislation
Opposing S. 820 and H.R. 1731 Egg Bill Before Congress
Economic Concerns with Colony Cages
In March 2013 at the Midwest Poultry Federation Convention in St. Paul, MN, Dr. Atoussa Mazaheri, Company Veterinarian with Lohmann Tierzucht GmbH, Veterinary Laboratory in Cuxhaven, Germany reported that egg farmers in her country regretted the investment in the enriched colony cages because the animal activists, after successfully pressuring the move toward enriched colony cages, were now pressuring for no cages at all. She also reported with the changes in production systems of the re-emergence of poultry diseases that had been eradicated from Germany since 1998 with the resulting mortality in chickens upwards of 30% (an obvious welfare problem with the new production systems in Germany)
In January 2013 at The Future of the U.S. Egg Industry educational program in Atlanta during the International Poultry Expo, German Professor Hans-Wilhelm Windhorst, International Egg Commission economist, described the effects of the conventional layer cage system ban in Germany in 2010. This preceded the January 1, 2012 EU Council Directive 1999/74/ED that mandated converting from conventional cages to colony cage systems for the whole of the European Union. According to Windhorst, the ban resulted in: 1) A countrywide loss of egg production requiring that eggs be imported. 2) Forced many farms into foreclosure.
Dr. Daniel Sumner, an agricultural economics professor at the University of California and director of the University's California Agricultural Issues Center, said "real cost differences" are being found in the colony cage systems. On a cost-per-dozen basis, overall costs are highest for aviaries, followed by colonies and then by conventional cages.
The United Soybean Board released an economic impact study (March 2, 2012) showing the cost of eggs increasing 25% from $1.68 to $2.10 as a result of this legislation. A total cost increase to consumers in the U.S. by $2.66 billion.
Hen Welfare Concerns with Colony Cages
USDA's research from the Egg Laying Hen Welfare released in the Summer of 2011 states: "Hens can experience stress in all housing types, and no single housing system gets high scores on all welfare parameters. Like-wise, no single breed of laying hen is perfectly adapted to all types of housing systems. Additionally, management of each system has a profound impact on the welfare of the birds in that system, thus even a housing system that is considered to be superior relative to hen welfare, can have a negative impact on welfare if poorly managed." - -Laying Hen Welfare Fact Sheet, USDA-ARS-MWA, Livestock Behavior Research Unit, Summer 2011
The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) noted preliminary welfare concerns from the enhanced colony cage systems. The scientists participating noted that in the enhanced colony cage the chickens sustained more leg and wing injuries. Dr. Joy Mench, co-scientific director and director of the University of California Center for Animal Welfare, said each housing system indicated its own advantages and disadvantages in providing for the health and wellbeing of the hens housed. Hens in enriched colonies experienced increased leg and wing fractures.
Human Health Concerns with Colony Cages
As reported in the 2011 Journal of Poultry Science 90:1391-1396) under the title
Horizontal Transmission of Salmonella Enteritidis in groups of experimentally-infected laying hens housed in different housing systems By J. De Vylder*, J. Dewulf #, S. Van Hoorebeke#, F. Pasmans*, F. Haesebrouck*, R. Ducatelle*, and F. Van Immerseel* Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases *, and the Department of Reproduction, Obstetrics and Herd Health, Research Group of Veterinary Public Health and Zoonoses #, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, B-9820 Merelbeke, Belgium.
Abstract (abbreviated): Concerns regarding the welfare of laying hens have led to the ban of conventional cages in Europe from 2012 onward and to the development of alternative housing systems. A transmission experiment was performed to quantify the effect of the housing system on the spread of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) within a group of layers. At 16 weeks of age, 126 birds were inoculated with SE and housed in 4 different systems; conventional cages, furnished cage, an aviary, and a floor system.
Discussion (abbreviated): Transmission between birds is expected to be higher in floor-raised birds. For the conventional cage, no transmission was observed. For the furnished cage, it was found that 1 seeder bird infected on average 0.201 contact animals. It needs to be emphasized the rate of transmission were obtained for a 4-week observation period. Therefore, for a full production cycle, which might take 40-50 weeks, a much higher number of secondary cases originating from the 1 infectious animal might be expected.
If the spread of a known pathogen is likely to increase under this cage system, then increased surveillance for this pathogen must be taken. This added cost will be borne by those 58 egg farmers making the conversion to the enhanced cage system.