When it comes to egg production, sustainability is multi-faceted, covering everything from environmental impacts to animal welfare to food affordability. It can be daunting to explore the complexities of one of these areas, let alone all of them at once.
The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) was created to do exactly this—and on March 18, CSES released the research results of their four year, commercial-scale study, which explored sustainability aspects of three different types of hen housing.
Spanning the life cycle of two flocks, the multi-disciplinary study took place on a farm in the U.S. Midwest. Hens were housed in conventional systems, aviary systems, and enriched systems. Teams of researchers tracked, measured and analysed five aspects of sustainability: animal health and well-being, food safety and quality, environment, worker health and safety, and food affordability.
The study revealed benefits and challenges of all of the hen housing systems, providing a snapshot of the sustainability of these current housing systems. Infographics on CSES’s website show how each system stacks up across the five areas, and the summary report captures the most significant findings from each of the studies that occurred.
As the infographics indicate, there are trade-offs across each housing system that create a complex picture of egg production, hen housing and sustainability. Egg Farmers of Canada is proud to represent egg farmers across all systems. We all have a genuine interest in understanding these complexities and using new knowledge to inform decision-making.
The thoughtful and informed research coming from this study can bolster the understanding of what these trade-offs mean for all aspects of the production system. And while the study does not recommend one form of housing over another, the holistic, comprehensive information it presents will be central to decisions made by industry, consumers and governments.
CSES, a multi-stakeholder coalition of industry, academic, supplier and food retail organizations, is managed by the Centre for Food Integrity. Details about the project can be found on their website.