The Chinese food and retail industry first started to focus on switching to using cage-free eggs as an attempt to remove previous associations with food safety and quality scandals linked to eggs, from melamine content to antibiotics usage.
This movement has gained significant momentum in the past year due to strong support from across government, industry and also consumers, with a great deal of investment having gone into making this change.
“We have decided to allocate the majority of our resources to cage-free eggs production and distribution after two decades in the industry,” one of China’s largest food development firms and egg producers Tudama’s General Manager Cai Huazhu said via a formal statement.
“These eggs will be [distributed] between both our longstanding corporate clients and directly to consumers, as part of our aim to offer superior-quality eggs.”
The firm is set to become the owner of the largest cage-free egg farm in the country, having initiated construction of the 100-acre farm – set to house some 500,000 chickens – in Guangdong back in 2023.
The farm was a joint collaborative project between Tudama and the local government of Mashi, Guangdong, the latter highlighting ‘higher-quality protein’ as the main reason behind its participation in the project.
The local Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has also thrown its weight behind this movement, with dedicated state publisher China Agriculture Press having published a specialised guidebook on commercial cage-free egg production to aid firms in making this change.
In line with this, many other firms have also made the gradual shift towards cage-free egg production such as international food exporter Dalian Luxe (trades with Canada’s McCain and South Africa’s Rhodes Food Group) which highlighted strong consumer demand for these.
Commitments equals demand
According to data from consultancy firm Lever China, the number of local companies that have implemented commitments towards cage-free eggs have grown dramatically, by almost 200%.
“Over the past three years the number of companies committed to sourcing 100% cage-free eggs in China has grown from 50 to nearly 150,” Lever China Program Director Huang Mutzu said.
“In 2024, more of the country’s largest firms dealing in eggs will begin to offer cage-free eggs.
“This will be seen in the form of either transforming existing barns to cage-free, or constructing new chicken farms – all of these will lead to significant growth in the availability of cage-free eggs.
“[We believe that the] demand for cage-free eggs in China will increase by at least 1.8 billion eggs per year due to existing corporate cage-free commitments [and] egg producers are moving rapidly to be prepared to meet this demand.”