Brazil Offers Opportunities for Free-range Egg Production

BRAZIL - During an event in Bastos, Brazil’s major egg producing city, the manufacturer of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and the biggest retail group in the country spoke about the growing demand for cage-free eggs.
calendar icon 13 September 2013
clock icon 5 minute read

Sales of free-range and organic eggs are growing at more than twice the rate of conventional egg sales, at Grupo Pão de Açúcar, Brazil’s largest supermarket chain, and the multinational company Unilever has announced that all eggs used in its Hellmann’s brand of mayonnaise, the most popular brand in country, will be 100 per cent cage-free by 2020.

Such trends favouring alternative egg production were the focus of the workshop 'Market Opportunities for Free Range and Organic Eggs', which took place in Bastos on 6 September, reports Humane Society International (HSI).

“The factor that boosts sales of organic and free range eggs are that consumers are looking for a healthy diet”, said Danielle Pedro de Freitas, egg purchasing officer at Grupo Pão de Açúcar, during the Bastos event, held by the Technical and Educational Institute for Animal Control – ITEC. She reported that compared to sales in the first semester of 2012, sales of free-range eggs grew by 22 per cent in volume and 45 per cent in value in the first semester of 2013. At the same time, sales of organic eggs grew by 48 per cent in volume and 46 per cent in value. Both figures are more than two times higher than the sales of conventional eggs, which dropped by eight per cent in volume and grew by 20 per cent in value. Also according to Pão de Açúcar, another factor that explains the expansion of the free-range and organic markets are that consumers are concerned about animal welfare issues.

Ernani Wood, global leader for egg and meat purchasing at Unilever, also reported a similar trend. Speaking about Unilever's global sustainable sourcing plan, he said: “Our sustainability focus in the egg market is animal welfare. And that is why we have decided to use 100 per cent cage-free eggs in all our products by 2020, and that applies to the Hellmann’s mayonnaise in Brazil”. Wood highlighted that the transition has already been completed in Western Europe and is in progress in Canada and in the US. A plan to shift to cage-free eggs in Brazil is currently being developed, creating a new market opportunity and a challenge for all players in the egg supply chain. “The scale of production and demand for cage-free eggs in Brazil is still not enough. So what we have to do is to work to make it grow. We have to convince consumers to buy eggs which are good for the environment and for the hens”, he added.

Besides opting for a 100 per cent cage-free procurement policy, Unilever also wants to ensure that its entire egg supply is certified by a third-party animal welfare auditor. In Brazil, Unilever works with Ecocert, the agency providing the ‘Humane Certified’ certification.

“Unilever has proven to be an international leader in animal welfare by making its cage-free policy global”, said Carolina Galvani Bruun, Brazil’s farm animal campaign manager of the Humane Society International (HSI), one of the world’s largest animal protection groups. HSI encourages and works with large-scale food retailers in the adoption of higher animal welfare standards in their supply chains for meat and eggs. "Many other companies such as Burger King, Subway, WalMart and Starbucks, have also adopted cage-free procurement policies for their US supply chains. We look forward to working with these multinational companies to similarly extend their animal welfare policies to Brazil,” she added.

Sadala Tfaile, national sales manager for egg production at Big Dutchman, one of the world’s largest housing equipment suppliers for egg production, was also a speaker at the event. He explained that contrary to what many believe, projects in the US and Europe prove that cage-free systems can be attractive to commercial producers, given that they can be large scale, have similar costs to cage production, maximise the use of space via multiple floors and be fully automated.

Other industry specialists participating in the event included Murilo Quintiliano, Brazil’s executive director of the Food Animal Initiative (FAI), a multinational company specialized in developing animal welfare strategies for large scale animal production, and Miwa Yamamoto Miragliotta, scientific-technical director of AVAL (The Brazilian Association of Alternative Egg and Poultry Production). Many South-American producers who are pioneers in cage-free production – such as Korin, Fazenda da Toca, Sabor & Cor, Ovos Andinos and Ecoterra - also participated and spoke about their practical experiences.

Facts on Laying Hen Housing

According to HSI:

• Conventional egg production systems, predominant in Brazil, use cages to house hens. Most animal welfare specialists believe these systems are detrimental to animal welfare because when hens are in cages they are virtually unable to move and cannot express most of their natural behaviors.

• In alternative systems – such as free range, organic and cage-free – hens are free to walk and exercise. Such systems also often provide areas where hens can express their natural behaviours such as foraging, dust-bathing and nesting.

• Conventional battery cages have been banned all over the European Union since 2012 and three US states – Michigan, California and Ohio – have also approved laws to restrict the confinement of hens in cages. Now, a national ban is being debated in India.

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