~ The Cavalry Group Team
April 8, 2016
The April 7th story "Walmart's cage-free vow could cut prices, aid hens" by Hadley Malcom is simply not true. Egg farmers, like Walmart, have costs to produce or merchandise that they build into their pricing. No one expects Walmart's raising its minimum wage will not translate into increased costs, just as no one should believe that the increased cost to produce cage-free eggs will not also raise prices. The initial investment by the farmer is close to $40 per bird for the building and new equipment (feeders, waterers, nests, perches). This substantial investment will need to be paid by increased costs for the eggs. Cage-free hens use more feed. The labor to collect the eggs will also increase. Is the farmer expected not to recover these costs?
The premise that cage-free eggs will benefit the hen is also not true. Removing chickens from cages, where they have been for decades, will lead to issues with pecking prevented by the cage environment. That is why farmers transitioned to cages decades ago. Furthermore, the eggs are more likely to be contaminated with bacteria due to prolonged exposure from litter and manure in the nest boxes or on the ground. As for the workers, the amount of dust, which can transmit pathogens, inside a cage-free house represents a health risk to farm workers, and the need for workers to collect floor eggs creates ergonomic challenges, too. The most recent Salmonella enteritidis (a foodborne pathogen) outbreak linked to eggs comes from a cage-free farm in Lebanon, Ohio. The recent Food and Drug Administration warning letter was issued to a cage-free egg farmer in Missouri.
We hope the readers of USAToday are given the other side of the story with this rebuttal.
National Association of Egg Farmers
Office Tel: 610-415-1055
Mobile Tel: 484-744-3851