Consumers behind accelerated shift to cage-free eggs in US

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

WAUKON, Iowa (AP) — American consumers are increasingly demanding cage-free eggs from restaurants and chain stores, and those businesses and their suppliers are heeding the call.

It's the largest example of agribusiness adapting to consumers' growing sensitivities over how food animals are treated.

The nation's three largest egg producers are replacing caged systems with cage-free hen houses after large food chains including McDonald's, Starbucks and most recently, Panera Bread, started requiring suppliers to go cage-free.

It's not completely clear what's best for the chickens themselves. When uncaged but still cooped up, they can be aggressive and prone to injuries or cannibalism.

Yet, the $10 billion egg industry is switching more expensive and less productive cage-free housing.

Farmers say they'll accommodate the demand as long as consumers pay significantly more for cage-free and organic eggs.