Calculating additional cage-free production costs

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Cage-free hens eating

Cage-free hens need considerably more feed than their conventionally raised counterparts, thanks to their increased mobility. | Austin Alonzo

Cage-free egg production demands greater resources than conventional production, but quantifying exactly how much extra labor and feed is needed isn’t that simple.

Read the entire report about cage-free production costs exclusively in the September issue of Egg Industry magazine.

Removing birds from cages means more work is needed than in a traditional layer barn. The cage-free environment generally calls for more time spent performing routine bird management and flock inspection. Over time, farm workers and farmers will develop better management skills, which can potentially reduce the amount of labor needed and boost productivity. Improper pullet rearing techniques will lead to greater labor needs in the layer house.

The amount of labor needed will spike the first few weeks after the transition into the layer house. Additional workers are needed to collect floor eggs and establish proper nesting and roosting behaviors, as well as deal with any other problems. The effort put in during the weeks after the transition will pay off for the rest of the flock’s productive life. Conversely, if those issues are not properly addressed, more labor will be needed for the remainder of the cycle.

To keep aggression in check and promote flock uniformity, experts stress providing adequate space for each bird to eat without competition and monitoring daily feed consumption. Without adequate space, only the most dominant bird will be able to feed. For economic reasons, farmers should work to provide an adequate amount of feed for cage-free flocks rather than a more nutritionally dense ration.

Comprehensive resource for cage-free eggs available

A new collection of exclusive articles, blogs and infographics for purchase on Cage-free Eggs and Consumer Trust in the Poultry Industry, written by trusted WATT Global Media editors and industry experts will equip egg producers and marketers with information to help them make critical business decisions.

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Read the full article.

Austin Alonzo is a reporter at WATT Global Media. To contact Alonzo, email

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