Looking to the Future of Sustainable Egg Supply

Sysco supports proper animal welfare in all segments of animal agriculture. Our quality assurance associates are involved in animal agriculture work with a number of trade groups and research programs. For example, Sysco supports and is a member of the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES), which is comprised of leading animal welfare scientists, academia, NGOs, and egg industry personnel, as well as foodservice and retail food establishments. The research involves a multi-year study comprising two flocks of birds within each system. The goal is to holistically study three types of laying-hen housing systems to determine the impacts on five sustainable areas of study:

  1. Food Safety
  2. Worker Health and Safety
  3. Hen Health and Well Being
  4. Environmental Impact
  5. Food Affordability

The objective is to collect data that will better support the understanding of the viability of alternative laying-hen systems, which will enable organizations to make informed decisions based on their needs and values. The purpose is not to provide data to support one method of housing over the other, but simply to provide the data obtained during the research to assist companies in making informed decisions. The three types of housing systems being evaluated include conventional-style systems (often called “battery cages”), enriched-cage systems and cage-free aviary systems. Topics of study within each sustainability area are:

  • Food Safety – Monitoring of hens’ immunological responses to vaccines, comparison of exterior egg shell characteristics and interior egg quality and microbial populations in hen housing environments.
  • Worker Health & Safety – Assess personnel exposure to gases and particulate matter in the housing systems, and characterize associations between different hen housing systems and respiratory health for workers.
  • Hen health – Effects of the different housing systems related to bone health, space and physiological stress on the birds.
  • Environmental Impact – Monitor the emission rates from the three housing types and determine feed and water energy use.
  • Food Affordability – Assess farm cost differentials and the economic costs to consumers for each hen housing system.

The hen housing study has been under way for two years and will continue for at least one more year. A final data summary will be issued in 2014. Sysco will share this data and discuss potential changes with our suppliers as part of our efforts to improve our egg supply chain and to offer our customers the best possible products.

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