In July 2021, the European Parliament with 558 votes in favour, 37 against and 85 abstentions adopted by a large majority a resolution to phase out the use of cages in European livestock farms, indicating 2027 as a possible date for their ban.

Organisations such as CIWF and the like act to have the methods of rearing laying hens, i.e. those that produce table eggs, changed.


The intervention of the animal rights activists actually acts as an accelerator of the processes of improving animal welfare that was initiated by farmers who operate on the basis that a healthy animal produces better and is a guarantee of health also for the consumer.  Farmers benefit from having healthy and well treated animals and this leads them to take special care to protect the health of the animals they breed.


Until five years ago, the majority of farms were equipped with non-enriched cages (see photo below), but today the industry has already started a considerable improvement in favour of animal welfare.



Cage rearing of laying hens to be replaced by 'open' systems
Cages with laying hens to be replaced by ‘open’ systems


Decades ago, cages seemed the most practical solution to ensure the management of large flock size and the collection of huge eggs numbers. The concept of animal welfare was different and less refined than today. Using the cage was thought more about facilitating egg collection and less about what this meant for the animal. Over time, in fact, even farmers themselves realised that allowing the hen greater freedom of movement resulted in a stronger and even more productive animal. Attention therefore turned to making the egg collection system more efficient and practical, leaving the animal much more freedom of movement and socialisation.


Automated egg collection system
Automated egg collection system


The situation today (2023) in Europe, with some variations from country to country, for laying hen farms is as follows (the data concern traceable and verifiable farms. In fact, it must be known that a farm with less than 500 animals is not subject to controls):

  • 35% are housed in enriched cages consisting of a protected nest, a roosting area, perches, beak and leg scratching areas, …
  • 45% are housed in aviaries, which are open, communicating multi-storey structures where the animals are free to move and scratch around, although confined in a shed
  • 15% are housed on floor. They are, however, enclosed sheds, with shavings bedding, perches and collective nests
  • Another 2-3% are bred as indicated in the previous point, but also have access to the outdoors

The poultry sector foresee a rapid reduction of cages to zero (i.e. from 35% to 0%) and their conversion into aviaries.

Any downsizing due to the evolution of livestock farming implies high costs for farmers. The sector has very low margins to offer eggs (and meat) at sustainable prices for the consumer. To give a practical example, new housing formulas for laying hens lead to a cost increase of 30 to 100 per cent and in the same proportion, land consumption obviously increases. The consequence of these interventions is that eggs indicated as coming from a ‘floor or free-range’ type of farming are obviously more expensive for the consumer than others.


Yet the nutritional value and usefulness of an egg is worth enormously more than a cup of coffee at the café… and yet we pay more for a cup of coffee than 4 or 6 eggs (depending on the type) without asking many questions. Does this make sense? No!


Each egg is compulsorily stamped with a code indicating the housing system:

  • 0 = indicates organic farming.
  • 1 = indicates free-range farming. The shelters have perches, nests and litter and the hens are free to go outside during the day. …
  • 2 = indicates floor housing. …

3 = indicates cage or battery farming


How to read an egg?
How to read an egg?

How to read an egg is detailed at these addresses:


Let us now take a look, one by one, at the pictures of the different existing set-ups, starting with the ‘dying’ one:


The Cage or Battery (code 3 printed on the egg)

It is a set-up destined for ultimate 'extinction'
It is a set-up destined for ultimate ‘extinction’


The radical open-space adaptation of all the farms is near to completion, where the laying hens move freely by accessing the nests distributed throughout the farm to allow natural egg laying, as illustrated in the following pictures.



Floor farming (code 2 printed on the egg):

In these farms, the hens are free to move around, but cannot go outside.

There are two different set-ups:


A – aviaries

B – slats + nest

  • A
  • A – Below is a picture of an aviary
  • Below is a picture of an aviary
  • B – Below we see two pictures of a farm with a slat + nest where you can see that the walking surface of the hens is designed to avoid contact with droppings
    Below we see two pictures of a farm with a perch + nest where you can see that the walking surface of the hens is designed to avoid contact with droppings
    Below we see two pictures of a farm with a perch + nest where you can see that the walking surface of the hens is designed to avoid contact with droppings


Free-range (code 1 printed on the egg)

They are sheds such as those whose eggs are coded with code 2 (ground-breeding), but with access to the outside by means of EXITS – (see below):



Below we can see a shed with aviary and ushers:



Organic farms (code 0 printed on the egg)

They are like the free-range farming but animals are fed with organic feed and flock size is smaller.


The Editorial Board of M.A.C.