EGG INDUSTRY IN THE US<br />INTRODUCTION<br />In the 1940s, small, backyard flocks of chickens made up the majority of egg industry in the US. In 1968, there were 28000 egg producers with an average flock size of 10,000 birds. In 1990, the corresponding figures were 500 and half-million. Fraser (2005) observed that the country underwent massive consolidation and profits became more consistent. According to the American Egg Board (2009), there are 60 egg producing companies with 1 million plus layers and 12 companies with greater than 5 million layers in US. There are approximately 245 egg producing companies with flocks of 75,000 hens or more. These companies represent about 95 percent of all the layers. The top five egg producing states represent approximately 50 percent of all U.S. layers. In 2007, the average number of egg-type laying hens in the United States was 284 million. Flock size for March 1, 2008 was 282 million layers; down from 288 million a year ago. Over the last 10 years, the poultry industry has consolidated significantly, but still experiences the same peaks and valleys in profitability.<br />PRODUCTION TRENDS<br />The poultry year book data reveals that egg production in 1960 was 61.6 billion, which rose to 69.6 billion in 1971 and 1980. Thereafter, there was a steady increase in production to 73.9 billion (1994), 84.7 billion (2000) and 89.3 billion (2004). Average number of layers slightly decreased from 296 to 291 million, during the period from 1961 to 1994 and further increased to 336 million in 2002. The annual average production per layer on hand in 1994 was 254 eggs (NASS, 1995). According to USDA (2009), the table egg production figures for the years from 2004 to 2008 were 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.4 and 6.4 billion dozens respectively. It is projected to be 6.5 billion dozens for 2009 and 2010. The U.S. egg production totalled 7.59 billion, during August 2009, which included 6.51 billion table eggs. The total number of layers during August 2009 averaged 332 million, about 1% less than the last year. Egg production per 100 layers was 2,284 eggs, a 1 % higher than August 2008 (NASS, 2009). Rate of lay per day on March 1, 2008 averaged 72.3 eggs per 100 layers, which is also higher than the previous years’.<br />HOUSING INTENSITY<br />The COK Report, 2004 found that 98 percent of these layers were confined in battery cages, so just 2 % of them were in farms. Each wire battery cage normally houses three to ten hens. A typical egg farm contains thousands of cages at an average density of 59 square inches of space per bird. Prior to the implementation of the UEP's animal husbandry guidelines (2002), most producers used A-frame systems; however, they do not really conform to meet the requirements of the UEP guidelines and environmental regulations. In future, stacked deck or scraper board system will have to be used rather than the familiar high-rise house. Krouse and Krouse (2008) reported that stacked deck systems are more complex and expensive to install, costing around $12 per bird rather than $5 per bird for high-rise. Cage space attrition eventually made the supplies tight and prices high. One basic effect has been the need to increase cage space and in overall, a trend which will continue through April of 2010, when all cages in the UEP program will have to provide 67 square inches per bird. Then there will be a reduction of 29 percent of space from that in 2002 and assuming a constant flock size of 196 million hens, the industry will go on to lose a total of 56.5 million by 2010.<br />USDA first reported organic layer population of around 1.1 million in 2005. W. van der Slius reported that organic eggs accounted for nearly 1% of the fresh egg market in 2004. Growth in the speciality egg market and organic eggs would suggest that there would be more hens reared cage free or in the free range in future. McDonald's is teaming with one of its egg suppliers, and animal welfare scientists to conduct a commercial-scale study of housing alternatives for hens, including cage-free and "
. <br />AUTOMATION<br />According to the American Egg Board website, there is high degree of automation in today's egg laying facilities, with temperature, humidity and light, all controlled and the air is kept circulated. The building is well insulated, windowless (to aid light control) and is force-ventilated. Birds are either given the run of the floor area or are housed in cages. Mostly it’s the cage system but floor operations are also in use. Due to convenience and economics, there is a strong trend toward automation, whenever possible. Automatic feeders, activated by a time clock are used. Birds at floor level drink from troughs. Those in cages may sip from such sophisticated accessories as self-cleaning drinking cups or nipple valves. Some eggs are still gathered by hand, but in most production facilities automated gathering belts do the job. These highly sophisticated systems require new management techniques and have higher operating costs. Working with equipment manufacturers, many improvements have been made in the housing, equipment, and management of caged birds. <br />ECONOMICS<br />Estimates say that if all commercial egg farmers had to convert their modern hen houses into cage-free facilities, it would cost them a combined $7.5 billion. This includes the cost of converting the modern sanitary cage system used to produce almost 95 percent of all eggs in America to cage-free, as well as the cost for the extra land needed. Almost all commercial egg farms are family-owned farms or farmer co-ops; only one is a public company (UEP,2009). New cage installation is rather slow, but with aging equipment and constantly increasing cage space requirements, producers can only hold on for a short time. It more difficult than ever to maintain a constant flock size, let alone expand. Growth of in-line breaking facilities has required the installation of an additional 23 million cages over the past 6 years. This higher level of investment by the industry has allowed it to better maintain its infrastructure with only 8 percent of its hens in obsolete facilities compared to 18 percent in the shell egg industry (Krouse and Krouse 2008). According to the USDA, the industry produced 211 million eggs per day in 2005 and 214 in 2006, resulting in losses of $1.2 million every day in 2005 and $1.3 in 2006.<br />Another important change over the past few years has been the effect of continually increasing hen productivity. This would help to offset some of the reduced cage space and interpreting these trends, there is no reason to expect the sustained prices to drop down below break-even levels in the near future. An additional 47,000,000 cage spaces must be installed between 2008 and 2010 to keep the industry's infrastructure from becoming even smaller and less efficient. Resorting to double brooding, reduction in feed cost through the use of alternate feed ingredients and reducing the use of energy are suggested as measures to trim down the producers’ expenditure.<br />REFERENCES<br />A compassion on killing (COK) Report: 2004. Animal suffering in the Egg Industry Available at http://www.eggindustry.com/cfi/report/ accessed on 6/10/2009.<br />American Egg Board 2009. Egg Industry Facts Available at http://www.aeb.org/Industry/ EggProduction.htm. Accessed on 8/10/2009.<br />Bell, D.2002. A recap of egg industry statistics – 2001. An egg economics update. University of California, Available at http://animalscience.ucdavis.edu/Avian/eeu302.pdf. Accessed on 10/10/2009.<br />Egg Industry Fact Sheet. 2009. American Egg Board. Available at http://www.aeb.org/ Industry/ Facts/FactsSheet.htm Accessed on 7/10/2009.<br />Fraser, D. Animal Welfare and the Intensification of Animal Production An alternative interpretation. 2005. FAO Readings in ethics. Knowledge and Communication Department Available at http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/a0158e/ a0158e00. htm. Accessed on 7/10/2009<br />Layers and egg production annual highlights, 1995. Agricultural Statistics Board. USDA. Available at http://usda.mannlib.cornell. edu/usda/nass/ChickEgg//1990s/1995/ChickEgg-01-30-1995.txt accessed on 4/10/2009. <br />National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), 2009. Agricultural Statistics Board, U.SDA. Chickens and Eggs Available at http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/ usda/current/ChicEggs/ChicEggs-09-22-2009.pdf. www.nass.usda.gov. Accessed on 5/10/2009.<br />National Annual Agricultural Statistics 1995-1996 Livestock and Poultry Statistics Available at http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/Ag_Statistics/1995-1996/index.asp . Accessed on 6/10/2009.<br />Poultry year book. Economics Statistics and Market Information. United States Department of Agriculture. Available at. (http://www.wattpoultry.com/EggIndustry/Article.aspx?id=21198. Accessed on 7/10/2009.<br />Sam Krouse and Bob Krouse. 2008. Egg Industry. Infrastructure’s role in keeping egg prices high. Available at http://www.wattpoultry.com/EggIndustry/Article.aspx?id=21198. Accessed on 10/10/2009.<br />United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines for US Egg laying flocks. 2002. Available at http://www.ridleyfeedingredients.com/animalguidelinesuep.pdf. Accessed on 6/10/2009.<br />United Egg Producers (UEP). 2009. National Cage-Free Egg Production Requirement Would Be An Environmental Disaster, New Study Warns- Available at http://www.uepcertified.com/news/pdf. Accessed on 6/10/2009.<br />USDA 2009. Livestock, Dairy, & Poultry Outlook /LDP-M-177/March 18. Economic Research Service, Available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/ldp/2009/03Mar/ldpm177.pdf Accessed on 8/10/2009.<br />W. van der Slius. 2004. More organic poultry meat and eggs in the US World Poultry magazine. 23(3). Available at http://www.worldpoultry.net/article-database/more-organic-poultry-meat-and-eggs-in-the-us-d1943.html. Accessed on 09/10/2009.<br />