The move to cage-free isn’t cheap. Egg producers spend $30 to $60 per chicken to make the switch from conventional cages to a cage-free, or “aviary,” system, according to the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University. Most large operations house a million or more birds, so the costs can add up quickly to reach upwards of $60 million, advises Hongwei Xin, a researcher at ISU.
As the profit from egg production can be on the low end — usually around 7 cents per dozen eggs — this may certainly put some producers in a bind, especially those unable to secure a necessary loan or who may have recently invested extra cash in a brand new barn with cages, Xin says.
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