Take home messages from the IEC Conference
Brand promotion still effective; colony cages see varied levels of
acceptance across the globe. Simon M. Shane
The recent International Egg Commission (IEC) Conference provided a platform for producer organizations and production specialists to acquaint the world’s egg
industry with current trends in marketing,
welfare and housing.
Dr. Steenkamp maintains that brand promotion is most effective in concentrated markets such as the major metropolitan areas of
With the supermarket industry representing an oligopoly in the U.S. and the EU, and
the inclinations of multinationals towards
store brands, producers must be ;exible and
be prepared to sell both generic and premium
products to the major chains. At the end of the
day the reality is that supermarkets own their
shelves. They are, however, prepared to sell
both specialty and store brands in response to
Branding of eggs
Dr. Jan-Benedict Steenkamp shared his
views on branding with attendees emphasizing
that “strong brands don’t just happen, they are
He maintains that branding eggs represents
a practical alternative to store-designations
since consumers invariably seek out brand
names, simplifying the purchase process.
Since most consumers make a purchase
decision within 20 seconds, it is important for
brands to be featured on packs. In addition,
product attributes including nutritional content
should be clearly visible.
Of special importance to the U.S. industry
is the distinction between generic and brand
promotion. Dr. Steenkamp recognizes the
role generic promotion may have in dispelling misconceptions among consumers. A
speci;c example is the excellent work by the
American Egg Board in removing the stigma
of cholesterol from eggs. Similar efforts have
been made by United Egg Producers regarding
welfare, despite the negative campaign against
con;ned livestock mounted by HSUS and kindred organizations.
Brand promotions can be extremely effective, providing that the attributes of the product
Belgium will ban conventional cages beginning in 2012 but will allow enriched colony
cages through 2024.
Studies conducted on colony cages in the
Netherlands showed that over 95% of eggs
were laid in nest boxes and that 90% of the
hens used perches at night. Evaluations of
Conference attendees gathered in Canada.
consumer demand since customers loyal to a
speci;c brand may ;ll their weekly baskets at
a competing store with broader offerings. We
are all aware of the standard question “did you
;nd everything OK?” at the checkout counter.
10 • Industry Egg • December 2009 • www.WATTAgNet.com
can be appreciated by consumers. Competitive
advantages accrue to successful brands despite
the costs associated with advertising.
Enriched colony systems
The organizers of the 2009 IEC Conference arranged a panel of EU experts to review
progress in adoption of enriched colony cages.
In 2008, 7% of the 278 million con;ned hens in
the EU were housed in colony cages.
Germany leads the nations of the EU
in adoption of the system referred to
as Kleingruppenhaltung which can
be effectively translated as “housing
in small groups.” In contrast, Austria
has banned colony cages, effective
2020. Sweden has allowed colony systems following the phase-out of conventional cages at
the end of 2002.
Keep up-to-date on research. “PSA review:
Science continues to improve production”
the behavior of hens in cages are still
in progress, with attempts to correlate
performance with activity of ;ocks in
a small group. It is estimated that egg
production costs 10% more in colony
cages compared to conventional cages.
Currently in the EU there is no premium for
eggs derived from colony systems as compared to free range and non-con;ned ;ocks.
A note of unfounded optimism was represented by statements expressed at the conference that enriched colony cages will comply
with emerging U.S. animal welfare guidelines
including California Proposition 2 and the recently enacted law in Michigan. A reading of
both items appears to exclude colony cages.
The HSUS and others regard a cage of any
form as “con;nement” and non-compliant
with their position that hens must be able to
“spread their wings without touching either
side of an enclosure or another bird.” This
provision would effectively eliminate colony
cages and may extend to any non-con;ned
barn system depending on interpretation. Advancing colony cages as a means of appeasing
the HSUS and PETA will be futile since hen
welfare is not the real issue. Complete abolition of intensive livestock production is the
ultimate goal of these extremists. EI
Photo courtesy of Big Dutchman.