Since 2007, the Good Egg Award has celebrated companies that use or have committed to use cage-free eggs or egg products. To date more than 30 million laying hens are set to benefit each year from our award winners’ policies.
It takes more than 6 billion laying hens to produce the eggs required for the global egg market, with over 60% of hens kept in industrialised caged systems. Eggs are sold either in their shells or are used by restaurants and food manufacturers in a wide range of processed products from soups and sauces to ready meals, cakes, biscuits and desserts.
Minimum conditions for the protection of laying hens are set out in the EU Directive (Council Directive 1999/74/EC), which bans the use of the barren battery cage from 1 January 2012. Some member states are still not fully compliant with the legislation and we urge all food businesses to check they supply chains for compliance. Whilst the barren battery cage ban signifies a huge step for hen welfare, enriched cages which are still confinement systems, are still legal.
There are over 325 million laying hens kept for egg production in the EU each year, and around 35 million in the UK. Over 50% are in cages, the majority of which are ‘enriched’ cages. In the USA nearly all laying hens are in barren battery cages. Hens start laying regularly at around 18-20 weeks of age and commercially they lay for just over a year before being sent for slaughter; most of their life is therefore spent in confinement.