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American consumers are still opting for “regular” eggs over the cage-free variety by a margin of 40 to one, according to data from Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group, which tracks checkout scanner data from 34,000 grocery, drug and mass merchandiser stores across the United States. The information was presented at a United Egg Producers (UEP) meeting this week in Washington.
Eggs produced in traditional cage housing systems continued to be the most popular type among supermarket shoppers, accounting for 92 percent of the 21 billion eggs purchased at retail last year, SymphonyIRI found. Cage-free eggs account for just 2 percent of all retail eggs bought, while organic/free-range eggs made up 1 percent. Sales of all three kinds of eggs were essentially flat vs. the previous year: Organic/free-range egg sales dipped 1.67 percent, cage-free eggs edged up 1.25 percent and regular eggs declined less than 1 percent.
“This data clearly indicate[s] that consumers … when given free choice … still prefer regular eggs to cage-free or other types of eggs by an overwhelming majority,” said Gene Gregory, president of UEP, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based national farmer cooperative and trade association for America’s egg farmers.
The average advertised price for a dozen Large Grade A eggs from hens in traditional cage housing today is $1.10, according to recent U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics cited at the meeting. Cage-free eggs are almost three times more expensive, at $2.99 per dozen, and organic/free-range eggs are four times more expensive, at $4.38 per dozen, the USDA found.
Other information discussed at the UEP meeting was that American consumers pay almost three times less for eggs than European shoppers do, according to data compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Eurostat analyzed by Washington-based economic consulting firm Promar International.
The meeting also unveiled the results of a nationwide survey of Americans conducted by Atlanta-based independent research industry agency Bantam, which found that nearly one-third of U.S. consumers back the use of “enriched colony housing” systems such as those being implemented by many European egg farmers. Enriched colony housing systems give hens more space and the ability to nest, scratch and perch, unlike most of the egg housing systems currently used.