More than 38 million chickens in Spain live crammed together in cages, according to data from 2019 to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Each bird lives in the space of a sheet of paper and without seeing the sunlight. With the peaks cut off, and constant stress, develop your life as layers in which during 100 weeks lay about 470 eggs. This system is known as a rearing cage enriched and Spain, along with Poland, is the leader of this modality (with a 82% of caged animals), while the european average is 52%. In fact, in Germany, Austria, Holland, and Sweden, birds, caged barely exceed 10% of the total.

From 2016, these four countries are opting for alternative systems such as the foster jacket, where the animal develops in wider spaces, or ecological, in which live freely in the outside and feeds of I think eco-friendly. The consumer can identify the differences through the numerical code: 0 indicates organic production, 1 jacket, 2 in soil and 3 in the cage.

however, the turn towards animal welfare in Spain is also occurring, albeit slowly. The breeding systems alternative represented 7% in 2016 and 17.6% in 2018, according to the Spanish Association of Egg Producers (Aseprhu). That is to say, about five million chickens have stopped laying their eggs in cages.

Maria del Mar Fernandez Poza, director of Aseprhu, attributed these figures to the decision of the major distributors not to buy eggs from hens caged. According to Animal Equality, six of the seven supermarket chains with national presence, with the exception of Dia, have made public commitment to animal welfare. “This trend is also growing due to the pressure of organizations animalistic towards the companies of food distribution, who end up taking decisions unilaterally,” says Poza.

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41 million hens never leave their cages, The range eggs are imposed

Between the oenegés referred to Poza highlights Foundation, Animal Equality. From 2017, this entity began an awareness campaign to the doors of supermarkets to highlight the condition in these animals. Silvia Barquero, president of the foundation, regrets to be “leaders in animal abuse” and that the figures differ so much from the european average. “The egg industry is resisting this change because it is economically more profitable to keep hens caged”, he adds.

Poza insists to remember that the system of rearing in cage respects the european directive. “So that we comply with the animal welfare criteria,” he says. As of 2012, producers were forced to expand the space of the cages to 750 square centimeters -the equivalent of a page – per hen, to add nesting boxes and perches for the birds to go up. Deborah Temple, research group behaviour and animal welfare of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, indicates that the cage system “falls short” to improve the behavior of the animals, although it insists on not demonize it. “Many veterinary field will tell you that it is much easier to monitor the health of the animals in the cages system. And that is also animal welfare”.

Alberto Díez, director of the National Association for the Defence of Animals (Anda), puts in doubt that these criteria are sufficient. “Even the eggs sold as free of cages,” she adds. “The customer associated with animal welfare but this is not guaranteed.” Anda has created a particular seal that, in addition, ensures rural development, and environmental sustainability. “Now you sell a product supposedly eco-friendly, which competes with the ecological truth. We are seeing the industry of the alternative”. Temple affects to remember that the seal indicates the system of husbandry, not animal welfare.

From Aseprhu claim that the “unilateral decision” of the large distributors directly affects producers and limited supply. “If you’re restricting the trade of one of them [the cage], you’re conditioning the consumer to buy what you put in the supermarket”, he adds. For this reason, every time there are more farms that claim to be adapting to these new demands. Esther Muñoz Gil, head of the department of External Relations of Eggs Guillén, one of the main farms with Spanish, comments by e-mail forecast for 2025 a free production of cages at 100%. “This is the year 2019 we will end up with 24% of our hens in alternative systems,” he concludes.

More animal welfare, why the same price?

75% of europeans considered necessary to improve the welfare of farm animals, according to the Eurobarometer on animal protection. However, 90% of the respondents would not be willing to pay more for farm animal products that live in better conditions. Market prices vary considerably. A chicken egg cage is around 15 cents, the campers about 25 and the organic come to 50 euro cents. The eggs with the certificate of Anda, approaching to the euro by unit. “Not everyone has the resources, nor the desire, sometimes, to bet on a product of the highest level”, explains Díez. “But the future is going to evolve toward a system in which, in addition to requiring animal welfare, you have to apply the variable of the environmental sustainability and involving rural development. What is clear is that the public awareness is already here.”

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