Professors say cage-free eggs ‘unsustainable’
Published: Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 01:03
Some professors of the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design at West Virginia University issued a statement to Dining Services regarding the viability and sustainability of the cage-free egg initiative.
Joe Moritz, associate professor and state extension poultry specialist for WVU Extension Services, said the Davis College was not consulted on the switch to the free-range egg system. In March, Dining Services made a campus-wide switch to the use of cage-free eggs in all of the dining halls and the Mountainlair.
"I have concerns with describing cage-free production as a more sustainable practice that provides improved welfare," Moritz said.
Based on scientific data, newer cage systems of egg production reduce environmental and carbon footprints, use less land, feed and energy, and reduce morbidity and mortality from disease and hen cannibalism, according to the issued counterargument.
Moritz said representatives from both the Davis College and Dining Services met to discuss concerns about the new system. He said the meeting was positive, and he is hopeful communications between the two groups will be improved in the future.
Paul Lewis, professor and assistant director of Outreach Affairs at the Davis College, said he does not have a problem with Dining Services' decision to switch to cage-free eggs, but with its justification for doing it.
"If you want to buy cage-free eggs that's fine," Lewis said. "But the justification that it is a more sustainable production, that's just not true."
Lewis said Dining Services should have looked to the United Egg Producers when making their judgment. The UEP is a national federated cooperative and represents more than 90 percent of all egg producing hens in the United States.
"We're an academic institution," Lewis said. "We ought to be putting out information we can back up."
Poultry production is the largest agricultural commodity in the state of West Virginia, according to the statement.
The Davis College is currently focusing its efforts on developing cage-free management systems that could potentially enhance economic opportunities for small-scale West Virginia farmers.
UEP eggs are conventionally produced and represent the most sustainable and ethical production system to feed the US population at the most economical cost, Moritz said.