Laying Hens

BILLION LAYING HENS WORLDWIDE

MILLION TONS OF EGGS

MILLION LAYING HENS IN THE EU

MILLION BIRDS IN CAGES

Over 60 million tons of eggs are produced every year world-wide. Europe accounts for 16% of the world production, the biggest producers being Germany, France, Spain, Poland, UK, Italy and The Netherlands. Laying hens are kept in a variety of systems with varying levels of welfare: conventional cages, barns, free range or organic systems. Method of production labelling is compulsory, using a numeric code system that is indicated on each individual egg: 0 for organic eggs, 1 for free-range, 2 for barn eggs, and 3 for caged eggs.

Unenriched cages (battery cages) have been illegal in the European Union since 2012. Since this ban came into force, enriched cages (code 3) have become the most common egg production method (currently 55.9% of hens in the EU are raised in this system). These cages are ‘enriched’ with perches, nest area, and litter. However, in the European Council Directive 1999/74/EC (Laying hens Directive) there are no minimum requirements for nest area or litter to be provided for birds, so the existing provisions may be insufficient to meet ethological needs.

There are several animal welfare problems associated with the methods currently used in egg production, especially in enriched cages system. The main issue is that hens in these cages do not have enough space and resources to display important behaviours such as dust-bathing, scratching the ground to forage for food, and nesting. Rest can be impaired by poor perch design and high stocking density. Feather pecking and skeletal injuries are additional animal health and welfare problems caused by selection for high productivity. Additionally, pullets (young laying hens) are not protected by existing legislation, even though the conditions under which they are raised have a negative impact on their welfare later in life, including problems related to muscle deposition and bone composition.

Eurogroup for Animals

Rue Ducale, 29
1000 Brussels, Belgium

+ 32 (0)2 7400820

info@eurogroupforanimals.org

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