Press release Pilot project to support the transition to cage-free systems for laying hens in the EU
On 21 May 2021, the project “Best practices for alternative egg production systems” (‘Best Practice Hens’) has started. This project aims to gather knowledge on best practices regarding husbandry of pullets and adult laying hens in cage-free systems (in barn, free range and organic) and to support the transition to cage-free systems for laying hens in the EU.
‘Best Practice Hens’ is a project funded by the European Union with a duration of 2 years, ending in May 2023. The consortium, selected through a tender procedure, consists of 7 partners and 2 subcontractors representing a total of 5 countries: Utrecht University (leader; NL), Wageningen University & Research (NL), the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO, BE), Aarhus University (DK), Neiker (ES), the Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PL) and ECOVALIA (ES). AviVet (NL) and Kipdip (PL) are involved as subcontractors.
In the first year of the project, best practices will be developed for keeping pullets and laying hens in cage-free systems. To collect input for these best practices, 4 case studies will be performed in countries where already a high percentage of birds is kept in cage-free systems (The Netherlands, Germany, France and Denmark). Also, information on the specific situation in 4 target countries, that are still in transition (Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Poland) will be collected to adapt the best practices to their local conditions. Apart from management and housing aspects, specific focus will be given to animal welfare monitoring, economic and sustainability aspects. The transition towards cage-free systems should lead to improved animal welfare, farmer income and overall sustainability.
In the second year of the project, the best practices and the roadmap towards a successful transition will be presented in the 4 target countries (Spain, Poland, Portugal and Belgium) and, at a large, international producer meeting in Brussels. During the project, specific circumstances in the target countries that may support or oppose the transition towards cage-free systems will be taken into account.
Stakeholders from the egg industry, European farmers’ organisations and NGO’s will be involved in the project from the beginning. They will be represented through a Stakeholder Advisory Board, to collect their input on the best practices and to make sure that the advice given is relevant and supports the transition towards cage-free systems. This Board will be comprised by the following organisations: EUWEP, COPA-COGECA, Eurogroup for Animals, Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, EFSA, Lohmann Tierzucht, ERPA and Vencomatic.
With ‘Best Practice Hens’, the project team aims to contribute to a sustainable transition towards cage-free housing of laying hens in Europe.