Cage-free hens comprise a growing percentage of the U.S. egg-laying flock, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service. The cage-free flock has grown as states have passed and enacted legislation banning confinement of hens, and as multiple retailers and food service providers have pledged to only source eggs from cage-free operations.
Additional State bans are planned to take effect between 2023 and 2026. The cage-free egg-laying flock increased by more than 10.5 million hens in the first six months of 2023, according to USDA’s Monthly Cage-Free Shell Egg report. Cage-free hens increased as a proportion of the total U.S. laying flock, expanding from 36 percent in January to 38 percent in June. The non-organic cage-free flock accounted for most of the increase.
Meanwhile, in late 2021, cage-free lay rates have been moving mostly above or at similar levels to the lay rates in the overall table egg-laying flock, a departure from the previous trend.