Chains commit to cage-free eggs

But there is a concern Czech consumers won't want to pay more

Czech poultry farmers are being pushed to move away from battery cages for egg production and modernize. Large retailers want to stop carrying cage-produced eggs, but finding an alternative may prove difficult.

The Bohemian-Moravian Poultry Union (ČMDU) says that converting from cages would cost farmers Kč 6 billion, and the money is not readily available for most producers.

Many retail chains announced after a critical report on Czech Television that they plan to sell only non-cage produced eggs after 2025. The video report showed that the chickens lived in poor conditions.

Retail chains Lidl, Globus, Kaufland, Penny Market, Billa, Ahold, Tesco and e-shop Rohlí are among those that have announced support either recently or previously for more humane and environmentally friendly methods.

Many Czech egg producers would have to extensively renovate or build entirely new facilities to get away from using cages.

ČMDU chairwoman Gabriela Dlouhá said that retail chains in the past have paid the same for free-range eggs as for cage eggs, but free-range are more expensive to produce.

The European Union on Jan. 1, 2012, banned some types of cages. The new rules allowed enriched cages, with a defined minimum amount of space, or alternative systems that specified the number of chickens per square meter, and a minimum number of nesting spaces.

Czech producers in response the new EU rules mostly converted to enhanced cages instead of alternative systems, and in the time since 2012 have stuck to that model as it was cheapest.

Dlouhá added that producers, due to the low-profit margins on eggs, do not have the resources to fund yet another conversion to free-range or other alternative systems.

This could lead to a shortage of Czech eggs available to retailers who refuse to stock cage-produced eggs.

Czech consumers so far have been unwilling to pay more for non-cage produced eggs.

EU countries that have adopted a full ban on cages such as Germany, Belgium or the United Kingdom have a high standard of living and higher purchasing power.

Countries with lower purchasing power, including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Spain, still tend to use cages.

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