International Egg and Poultry Review: EU

EU - This is a weekly report by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), looking at international developments concerning the poultry industry. This week's review focuses on laying hens in the European Union.
calendar icon 12 October 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

The EC ban on keeping hens in conventional (battery) cages is due to come into effect on 1 January 2012. Council Directive 1999/74/EC was adopted in 1999 and Austria, Germany and Sweden have already phased out conventional cages. The Netherlands took advantage of the massive culling of flocks due to the outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in 2006 to transition some production to the new standards.

Some of the Member States (MS) will have a difficult time meeting the deadline. In 2010, 32.4 per cent of layers in the EU-27 were still in conventional cages; over half the layer hens in major egg producing countries Spain, Italy and Poland were in conventional cages. In April 2011 the EU Health Commissioner Dalli warned that on 1 January 2012 up to 85 million eggs per day could still be produced from non-compliant cages.

The investment for the farmer to transition egg production away from traditional cages is estimated to be €20 ($26.43*) per bird. The increase in the cost of egg production in the different MS is expected to range between 7 per cent and 12 per cent; the cost of production for free range eggs compared to eggs from traditional cages is calculated to be over 20 per cent. When combined with other costs in the EU (the GMO ban, environmental restrictions on manure and barn emissions, higher labor and energy costs) egg production in the EU could end up costing 50-60 per cent more than countries like the US and Brazil.

Egg prices in the EU are currently low due to overproduction. It is possible that some egg farmers have already put new barns into production but are still using their traditional cages as long as possible. The current overproduction could turn into an underproduction of eggs come 1 January 2012 when many producers make the transition simultaneously. Production of eggs for consumption, in metric tons, is forecast to increase 0.1 per cent in 2012.

On 5 October 2011, €1.00 = US$1.32
Source: European Commission – DG AGRI; USDA/FAS GAIN Report

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.
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