Breakthrough egg production study reveals significant reduction in environmental impact

economic-forecast-headerA landmark study conducted by the Egg Industry Center has given the industry something to crow about.

While U.S. egg production increased over a 50-year span, 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 in a first-of-its-kind assessment.

Key results of the study found that, compared to 1960:
• The egg production process releases significantly less polluting emissions, including 71 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions.
• Hens now use 32 percent less water and at least 50 percent less feed per dozen eggs produced.
• At the same time, they produce 27 percent more eggs per day and are living longer.

The life cycle analysis also showed the egg industry reduced its environmental impact while increasing hen supply by just 18 percent to meet the demands of a U.S. consumer population that grew 72 percent over the same 50-year period.

One of the study’s lead researchers and director of the Egg Industry Center, Dr. Hongwei Xin said, “The U.S. egg industry has evolved remarkably over the past five decades by incorporating new technologies to protect natural resources.”

Whether by adopting improved chicken genetics and diet or using new techniques to manage manure, “egg farmers have made tremendous strides over the past 50 years,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “They have accomplished this all while increasing egg production with fewer hens that actually live longer than their 1960s counterparts.

“This finding is important, because it demonstrates that U.S. egg farmers are able to produce more eggs with fewer feed inputs and fewer chickens that live longer, all while minimizing their environmental footprint. Another amazing take-away is that the very gains in efficiency benefiting the environment as reported in this study are repeated in almost every other sector within agriculture.”

The study was funded by the American Egg Board, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, the United Egg Association and the Egg Industry Center. It is available online at aeb.org/images/PDFs/FoodManufacturers/WP-sustainability.pdf.

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