November 21, 2021
China is the largest egg-producing country in the world, representing one quarter of global egg production with a reported 600 billion eggs produced per year.
Against this massive backdrop of both need and opportunity, a group of egg producers, equipment suppliers, food companies and NGOs gathered in Shanghai recently to discuss the living conditions of the country’s reported three billion egg-laying hens at the annual China Cage-Free Egg Summit. The Summit, which Lever co-created and co-organizes each year, covers the progress being made in shifting away from caged confinement and the opportunities and supports available for producers and food company procurement managers who are interested in doing the same.
This year’s Summit also came with an important announcement: the official launch of China’s first cage-free egg standard. Despite being the largest egg producer in the world, China previously had no formal standard to define what the term “cage-free” meant when it came to eggs. That lack of a standard has posed a barrier to food companies in the country who have considered ending the use of caged eggs but worried they could not necessarily trust egg producers who claimed to be cage-free without a clear standard for what the term meant.
Thankfully, that barrier has now disappeared. At the Summit, China’s Chain Store and Franchise Association (CCFA) and the China Animal Health and Food Safety Alliance (CAFA) jointly unveiled the first national set of standards that define cage-free eggs. Lever had spent two years working with these organizations and additional partners in China to encourage and promote the creation of such a standard and assist with making it a reality.
In addition to hard requirements against the confinement of laying hens in cages, the new standard also gives producers animal-welfare-related guidance on the housing environment and other production conditions. The new standard will help give businesses and consumers confidence on when eggs are being produced without the use of particularly cruel cages. That public confidence—which is particularly important in China given previous incidents in which other food products have been falsely labeled or adulterated—should provide some additional tailwinds for the shift away from the caged confinement of laying hens.
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