Despite the fact that China produces one quarter of the world’s eggs, just one year ago there were no commercial-scale farms in the country (with 100,000 or more hens) producing eggs without the use of cage confinement. The situation is changing thanks largely to Lever’s work on multiple fronts. Two major egg producers who are significantly expanding production have decided to do so without the use of cruel cages. Each producer is now making its new facilities completely free of cages. In addition, several of the largest producers in the country have decided to leave cages out of a portion of new constructions, including Costco’s primary egg supplier in China. In total three of the ten largest producers are now adding or expanding cage-free lines, and when constructions currently underway are completed, seven of the twenty largest egg producers in China will have commercial-scale cage-free egg production.

While cage-free certainly does not mean cruelty-free, these companies’ decisions to leave cages out of new constructions will mean lives of significantly less suffering for millions of laying hens each year.  Further, without such shifts at the producer level, leading food companies who have pledged to eliminate cruel cages in China would not be able to follow through on those commitments.

How has Lever helped get this critical shift started? First, by engaging directly with leading egg producers on the issue. Lever’s team in China is regularly having meetings and visits with egg producers, sharing content with them and attending and presenting at industry conferences, all to highlight the reasons and methods to eliminate cages.

Lever also continues to co-organize an annual cage-free egg conference in China, which draws numerous leading food companies and egg producers. Further, Lever persuaded its partners at Chinese food safety consultancy IQC to launch the first national verification scheme to certify producers as cage-free and has worked with them to help arrange two dozen certifications around the country.

Lever produced a comprehensive industry white paper on the pending increase in demand for cage-free eggs in China due to corporate cage-free pledges. The report found that existing commitments alone will require 1.3 billion eggs to be shifted from caged to cage-free production, which equates to 4.5 million hens removed from cage confinement. The report received significant media attention and is regularly used as part of Lever’s outreach to producers.

The most critical element has been Lever’s use of media. Each month, Lever’s team in China writes and places media stories on the cage-free issue, including articles on food companies committing to end the use of caged eggs, surveys on consumer attitudes toward caged eggs, and profiles of large domestic egg producers who are removing cages from their barns. Over the past year these stories have generated more than 250 news pieces in leading egg, agriculture, and food industry publications, as well as in mainstream outlets including China’s largest online news platforms and several state-run media channels. The coverage has been so steady and significant that in December of 2020, one of the leading agriculture industry media outlets in China listed the term ‘cage-free’ as one of the top trending topics in industry media that year.

While these shifts represent a very small part of China’s overall egg production, they are a critical development that will improve the lives of millions of hens and open the door for further progress.


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