Egg industry significantly reduces environmental impact

Published on: Oct 30, 2013

The Egg Industry Center released a landmark study Oct. 30 that shows that while U.S. egg production has increased over the past 50 years, the industry has also been able to significantly decrease its environmental footprint.

Researchers conducted a life-cycle analysis of U.S. egg production from 1960 to 2010 to evaluate environmental performance measures for the complete life cycle, from crops to hens to the farm gate. Study findings indicate that the environmental efficiencies are the result of a wide range of factors, including the reduction of natural resource use, improved hen feed, better disease control and advancements in hen housing systems.

Key results of the study found that, compared to 1960:

* The egg production process releases significantly less polluting emissions, including 71% lower greenhouse gas emissions.

* Hens now use 32% less water per dozen eggs produced.

* Today's hens use a little more than half of the amount of feed to produce a dozen eggs.

* At the same time, today's hens produce 27% more eggs per day and are living longer.

"The U.S. egg industry has evolved remarkably over the past five decades by incorporating new technologies to protect natural resources," said Hongwei Xin, agricultural and biosystems engineering and animal science professor at Iowa State University, director of the Egg Industry Center and the study's lead researcher. "Egg farmers have improved their production practices, allowing them to provide an affordable source of high-quality protein while using fewer resources and producing less waste."

Efforts to further improve feed efficiency, hen housing facilities and manure management will facilitate even greater environmental footprint reductions in the future, according to the announcement.

The study was funded by the American Egg Board, U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn., United Egg Assn. — Allied and Egg Industry Center. To obtain data for 2010, researchers conducted anonymous surveys with egg farmers and collected data on 57.1 million young hens and 92.5 million laying hens. For more information, visit www.incredibleegg.org or www.eggindustrycenter.org.