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What we do and don’t know associated to cage free egg manufacturing analysis

Through the early 2000s the strain was on the U.S. egg trade to extend cage house and to transition from typical cage programs to housing that accommodates the pure behaviors of laying hens. By 2016, state poll or citizen initiatives coupled with company social accountability commitments set focused dates or objectives for the transition of caged laying hen housing to cage-free. Right now the U.S. egg trade is transitioning to cage free egg manufacturing.

Janice C. Swanson, PhD
Departments of Animal Science and Massive Animal Sciences, Michigan State College 

USDA has reported practically 111.1 m hens are being raised in cage-free (together with barn and authorized natural) environments (USDA-AMS, Feb 2022). With this transition comes quite a few challenges to egg producers together with the number of labeling, certification, and third-party animal welfare audit packages, ever-changing buyer calls for, the monetary challenges of transitioning to new housing, profitability, design, and know-how choice, choosing hen genetics, employee security and coaching, egg high quality and security, and so on. Furthermore, the demand to supply validated scientific proof to reply questions or tackle issues posed by cage free manufacturing is rising quicker than public scientists can typically ship. 

Throughout a current dialogue between the United Egg Producers (UEP) Scientific Animal Welfare Committee (SAC) and UEP members, we generated a brief checklist of analysis questions and wishes. Many of those questions are associated to animal welfare necessities levied on the trade and the rising range of cage-free housing designs. The checklist under represents the top-of-mind points each SAC scientists and producers recognized through the dialogue. The checklist shouldn’t be complete nor consultant of all egg producers or scientists, however relatively a snapshot of areas at present recognized as problematic, in want of decision, or additional analysis. 

1. Nest high quality/design 

As a result of there are a lot of newer and customised cage-free housing designs, setting necessities for nest design and house allowance is difficult. We additionally know there are variations in time of lay and nest occupancy between brown and white strains of hens (Villanueva et al. 2017) too. Some analysis has centered on the hens laying expertise however principally in furnished cages (Engel et al., 2019; Hunniford and Widowski, 2019). Figuring out and validating outcomes-based measures to evaluate whether or not a nest design and the availability of flooring house is working properly collectively could possibly be useful to egg producers and auditors of hen welfare. 

2. Depopulation strategies

 Latest developments within the U.S. regarding HPAI infections present in wild and home chook trigger us to revisit the contentious concern of the speedy depopulation of flocks. Latest research on air flow shutdown with added warmth and fuel (Eberle-Krish et al., 2018) have been accepted solely as a technique of final resort (AVMA, 2019). Research have been carried out in Europe utilizing excessive density foam know-how (see overview McKeegan, 2018) that’s at present below check by the swine trade within the U.S. There may be large public scrutiny and strain to make depopulation strategies extra humane. It is very important word that depopulation shouldn’t be the identical as euthanasia (outlined as a humane dying). Routine depopulation of a layer home turns into confounded with the strategies of speedy killing used to include an infectious illness. Finish of lay culling is a time period steered as a alternative for finish of lay euthanasia. 

3. Lighting

Progressive applied sciences in lighting could embrace traits corresponding to spectrum, timing, power effectivity, bulb kind, and form. It is a crucial a part of housing design. New revolutionary lighting, like pulsed LED lighting, is quickly rising but there may be little unbiased printed information to obviously perceive its mechanisms and results to birdsphysiology and sleep sample. Additionally, essential is how lighting connects to egg high quality/issues of safety (England and Ruhnke, 2020), for instance, lighting methods which will deter flooring eggs. And the way lighting kind and placements may encourage birds to evenly use sources throughout the home, discourage dangerous behaviors, and facilitate employee duties like chook commentary in the home. 

4. Impacts of midnight feeding of birds

Many pointers set standards for prescribed steady mild and darkish durations for the welfare of hens. Nevertheless, during times of scorching climate a midnight feeding interval” of 30 – 60 minutes could also be supplied to hens and interrupts the continuity of the darkish interval. There may be some printed information indicating midnight feeding can impression hen welfare in cage free and enriched cage circumstances (van Straaveren et al., 2018; Decina et al., 2019). As local weather warms there may be prone to be extra not much less scorching climate occasions. 

5. Nest coaching and pullet elevating

Doorways have been used below the system or on the aviary construction to limit hen entry to litter to forestall laying flooring eggs. Some pointers prohibit using doorways. Are there profitable methods for nest coaching that dont require hens to be locked up for durations of time every day? There are indications that pullet coaching methods corresponding to pen enrichment can scale back flooring laying (Bari et al., 2020). Pullet elevating methods for profitable cage free dwelling. Extra analysis focus ought to be positioned on figuring out finest methods that put together chicks and pullets for cage free environments that may definitively enhance the welfare of layers all through their lay interval. 

6. Balancing meals security, well being, and different points of cage free manufacturing with expectations set for chook welfare

There’s a have to periodically replace systematic evaluation of those tradeoffs to assist U.S. producers discover that spot the place the steadiness may be struck for system sustainability. For instance, a current meta-analysis (Schuck-Paim et al., 2021) discovered mortality charges in cage free programs to be declining as egg producers change into extra skilled at managing cage free programs. And Canada has printed a life cycle evaluation as their producers transition out of typical cage programs (Turner et al., 2022). Banks of aggregated systematic information collected from business cage free producers is considered one of some ways to review these tradeoffs. 

7. Matching genetics to housing design

There may be nonetheless a lot to find out about strains of hens and their adaptability to vary cage free system designs. We additionally know producers could also be balancing hen pressure adaptability to cage free with a buyers specification for egg high quality attributes. This might create a battle between choosing strains finest suited to cage free housing with buyer requirements for egg high quality attributes. Data is on the market on egg storage and/or impression of housing system on egg high quality (Jones et al., 2018; Zotte et al., 2021) nonetheless extra work on hen pressure adaptability to cage free circumstances, together with egg high quality attributes, advantages producers and informs prospects of the impacts of their egg high quality specs on hen welfare. 

8. Identification and validation of animal outcomes-based measures that might successfully change engineering, administration, or resource-based measures

Utilizing animal-based outcomes may present better flexibility in how producers meet, and drawback remedy hen welfare necessities below a spread of housing, administration, and manufacturing circumstances. 

References can be found on request
From the Proceedings of the Midwest Poultry Federation Conference 2022



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