Animal Welfare

Egg farmers sincerely care about the welfare of their chickens and completely understand that poor husbandry practices will result in higher mortality and fewer eggs.

However, with fewer people having an understanding or relationship with farming and a growing public discussion about the well being of laying hens, the industry's trade association, United Egg Producers (UEP) began to question whether there was a need for an independent review of our industry production practices.

To achieve an independent assessment of U.S. egg farming, UEP established a mission, which included: (1) A scientific approach to animal welfare guidelines; (2) guidelines that are driven by the industry rather than government mandates or legislation; (3) guidelines that created a level playing field for both egg farmers and our customers.

The process for this review began with a meeting with Dr. Jeffrey Armstrong (Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University), asking if he would be interested in forming his own scientific committee of which he could select all the members without pay. In 1999 Dr. Armstrong assembled his committee comprised of government officials, academicians, scientists, and humane association executives. While in following years there have been a few changes in the makeup of the committee, they have remained engaged and continue providing UEP with recommendations.

The committee reviewed all available peer-reviewed scientific literature, visited egg farmers, breeder companies, and equipment manufacturers. They considered all egg production systems (cage and non-cage) but since approximately 95% of U.S. egg-production in the U.S. was in conventional cage systems, the logical starting point was the development of recommendations to ensure welfare guidelines for cage production.

In the fall of 2000, Dr. Armstrong's committee presented their recommendations for major and costly animal husbandry changes. UEP's Board of Directors approved the recommendations and embarked upon a plan to put those guidelines into an industry program that could voluntarily be implemented by egg farmers.

Recognizing the need to have support from our customers, UEP presented the science-based guidelines to the Food Marketing Institute (association of retail grocers) and the National Council of Chain Restaurants (association of fast food restaurants) and received their endorsement.

UEP launched the UEP Certified program in April 2002.Today, more than 80% of all eggs produced in the United States are produced under the UEP Certified guidelines. Any egg farmer desiring to be recognized and market eggs as UEP Certified must implement the scientific guidelines on 100% of their flocks. An auditing program was established to assure each farmer's compliance with the guidelines.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS-Poultry Programs) ,Validus Services and FACTA conduct the audits based upon procedures written by them.

The UEP Certified program is now recognized as a leader among all of animal agriculture worldwide in the establishment of science-based guidelines. The International Egg Commission (an organization of most every major egg producing country in the world) has endorsed the UEP guidelines as the model for creation of guidelines for egg-laying hens.

Find out more about UEP's proactive animal welfare program:

American Egg Farming How We Produce An Abundance of Affordable, Safe Food Impacts of Banning Cage Egg Production In the United States UEP Animal Husbandry Guidelines The Egg Industry and Animal Welfare A Science-Based Approach