Consumer demand boosts cage-free eggs

Consumer demand boosts cage-free eggs

Rising consumer demand means Oregon's largest egg producer, Willamette Egg Farms, is ramping up production of cage-free eggs.

Most of Willamette Egg Farms' production will still come from hens in conventional -- and controversial -- cages. But the 40,000 hens roaming each of the new houses, one in full operation and the other nearly so, will have three levels of perches, nesting boxes in which to lay eggs and ground space to move around. Hens cannot go outside -- it's not a free-range system -- but they can hop down to dirt floors to socialize, flap their wings and scratch the dirt.

The company, established in 1934 and still family-owned, produces about 1 million eggs a day in Oregon and another 600,000 daily at a site in Moses Lake, Wash. With the new houses, the company's cage-free production will amount to about 8 percent of its total. It will increase that percentage as its old buildings are phased out and replaced by more cage-free facilities over time.


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