Journal Article

Survey of egg farmers regarding the ban on conventional cages in the EU and their opinion of alternative layer housing systems in Flanders, Belgium

L. M. Stadig, B. A. Ampe, S. Van Gansbeke, T. Van den Bogaert, E. D'Haenens, J. L. T. Heerkens and F. A. M Tuyttens

in Poultry Science

Volume 95, issue 3, pages 715-725
Published in print March 2016 | ISSN: 0032-5791
Published online November 2015 | e-ISSN: 1525-3171 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3382/ps/pev334
Survey of egg farmers regarding the ban on conventional cages in the EU and their opinion of alternative layer housing systems in Flanders, Belgium

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On 1 January 2012, conventional cages for laying hens were banned in the European Union (EU); all egg farmers must now use alternative hen housing systems. In total, 218 Flemish egg farmers were surveyed in 2013 to 2014 regarding which housing systems they currently use, their degree of satisfaction with the system, and how they experienced the transition from conventional cages to an alternative system. The response rate was 58.3% (127 respondents). Of these, 43 (33.9%) were no longer active as an egg farmer, mainly due to the ban on conventional cages. The respondents who were active as egg farmers both before and after the transition (84, 66.1%) mainly judged the ban as negative for their own finances and for the competitive position of the Belgian egg industry, but were neutral or positive regarding the general consequences for their own business. Most respondents’ hens were housed in either aviary systems (47.7%) or in alternative cage systems (38.2%). When choosing a new system, the fit into the farm and consumer demand were the most important factors. Consumer demand was the main reason for choosing a system with free-range access. In general, egg farmers were satisfied with the system they chose, although this differs between systems. When asked to compare the alternative systems to conventional cages, alternatives were judged to be better for hen welfare and consumer demand, but similar or worse for all other aspects, especially labor. Egg farmers previously using conventional cages judged alternative systems more negatively than those who had no prior experience with conventional cages. Farmers who had experience with free-range systems judged these more positively than those without this experience, e.g., for egg consumer demand, profitability, and hen welfare. These results can possibly be extrapolated to other EU countries in which conventional cages were the most common housing system until 2012, and lessons can be drawn from the farmers’ experiences when implementing other animal welfare legislation that may require similar far-reaching adaptations for primary production.

Keywords: egg producer; conventional cage; aviary; floor housing; survey

Journal Article.  6850 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ornithology

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