March 11th, 2021
As food and egg industries worldwide continue to shift towards cage-free production and sourcing, a common question we get is: “but what does ‘cage-free’ actually mean?”
Navigating the transition to establish and maintain successful cage-free egg farms is more than just a simple process of removing cages. In this blog we give a brief overview of what “cage-free” means, the different housing systems that exist, and some key housing and management factors that contribute to a successful cage-free experience.
In cage-free systems the hens are not kept in cages and are able to move freely throughout the housing facility. Well-designed and managed cage-free systems allow hens to perform their natural behaviours including walking, perching, dustbathing, foraging, and laying their eggs in nests. There are different kinds of cage-free housing systems, including:
Cage-free systems may be automated or manual. Large producers often have highly automated equipment, including conveyor belts which collect eggs, feed and drinker systems which are automatically re-filled and automatically dispense feed and water to the birds, mechanised ventilation systems, and automatic lighting schedules using timers. Alternatively, producers may have manual systems or partially-automated systems – for example, they may have an automatic drinking system but manual egg collection.
In addition to being cage-free, farms need to be well designed and managed in order to provide good animal welfare. This includes the following:
Using best practices is crucial for a successful, profitable and sustainable farm. At Global Food Partners we understand the complexity of this topic and work one-on-one with producers to help identify and overcome the unique challenges they face in cage-free production. Together with our industry partners, including Aeres University of Applied Sciences, we will also be launching cage-free model farms in China in Indonesia, as well as a comprehensive online training programme in cage-free management. These programmes, to be launched in upcoming months, will give producers the training they need to ensure sustainability, including good welfare practices and a competitive business advantage.
Want to learn more about how we can work together? Send us a message here – we’d be happy to chat!