United Egg Producers Certified

United Egg Producers Certified Program

Egg Industry Establishes Welfare Guidelines

Eggscape

Recognizing the public interest for animal welfare, United Egg Producers (UEP) called for a review of the scientific literature on specific topics relevant to the well-being of egg laying hens.

The effort started in 1999 with the formation of an independent scientific advisory committee charged with reviewing all scientific literature on animal well-being for egg-laying hens, and to recommend further research if necessary. The committee, composed of leading animal welfare scientific experts in the U.S. including USDA officials, academicians, scientists and humane association members, completed this mission and made recommendations to the United Egg Producers and the industry.

From these scientific recommendations, UEP wrote a set of industry guidelines titled “Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks.” These guidelines were first introduced as a voluntary program in 2002 for the industry to implement when requested by their customers, since then they have evolved into a committed program called “United Egg Producers Certified.”

The United Egg Producers Certified program standards are the strictest in the industry and are part of our ongoing commitment to providing American consumers the safest, best quality and most economical eggs in the world. Our farmers commit to these strict guidelines and are audited by the USDA and Validus for compliance on 100 percent of their farms before they are allowed to place the United Egg Producers Certified seal of approval on their egg packaging.

The UEP Certified program for cage production provides assurance that hens receive adequate space, nutritious food, clean water, proper lighting, and fresh air daily as well as improves the flock’s livability and egg production rates.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission have approved the UEP Certified logo and the International Egg Commission has recognized the program as a model from which to create animal welfare programs in other member countries throughout the world. In addition, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Council of Chain Restaurants also endorsed these guidelines.

Requirements of a United Egg Producers Certified Company

To achieve United Egg Producers Certified status, a company must meet the following requirements established by UEP:

  1. Implement the Animal Husbandry Guidelines on 100% of the company's production facilities regardless of where or how eggs may be marketed.
  2. File a Monthly Compliance Report to assure UEP that the company is meeting the guidelines.
  3. Pass an annual audit conducted by USDA or Validus.

Egg producers producing more than 80 percent of the nation's total egg production have implemented the guidelines and met the additional requirements to be recognized as United Egg Producers Certified.

These companies are authorized to display the United Egg Producers Certified logo on their egg packaging and to market their eggs as United Egg Producers Certified. This logo does not imply that these eggs are superior to any other eggs, but simply that these eggs were produced by producers implementing UEP's Animal Husbandry Guidelines.

Components of Animal Husbandry Guidelines

The independent Scientific Advisory Committee made recommendations with regard to housing, including feed, water, and air, space allowance, beak trimming, molting, and handling and transportation. These recommendations are requirements of United Egg Producers Certified Companies.

Housing

Facilities

The Scientific Committee considered all types of egg production systems and concluded that all have their advantages and disadvantages and that both cage and non-cage production systems are humane and ethical. Because of the fact that approximately 98 percent of all layer flocks in the U.S. are housed indoors and in cages, the committee focused its recommendations on cage production. The committee concluded that depending on the size of the laying hen and the size and style of the cage, hens needed space of 67 to 86 inches per bird.

To have moved to this spacing immediately would have created severe egg shortages, market disruptions, and likely major price increases. In due respect for their customers, the egg industry established a phase-in program to implement the space requirements over a 5-year period.

Birds housed in cages have ready access to feed troughs directly in front of the cage and water is accessed easily from each cage. Housed in cages, birds seldom require medicine and are never fed hormones or steroids. Antibiotics are only used when birds are ill.

Cage systems provide cleaner eggs and also keep the eggs safe from bacteria that might be present in the manure. Click here for advantages of cage and cage-free production.

To provide for the birds during any power failure, the housing must include alarms and stand-by generators to supply emergency power for lighting, watering, ventilation, feeding, and egg collection.

Feed, Water, Air, and Lights

Water

It is every egg farmer’s responsibility to make sure his/her birds are receiving feed balanced with all the required nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Feed is formulated to meet the daily requirements of the birds throughout their lives.

Water must be provided through systems that ensure the hens have access to clean and fresh water at all times.

Poultry housing must be designed to provide a continuous flow of fresh air for every bird and lighting must be provided that allows the caretaker to inspect the birds daily

Beak Trimming

As they mature, hens, like many animals, become aggressive. They use the sharp end of their beaks to establish a pecking order. Beak trimming prevents the birds from harming each other.

The Scientific Committee recommended beak trimming only when necessary to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism and only when carried out by properly-trained personnel. They further recommended the age at which this trimming should occur.

Molting

Molting is a natural process for chickens and other feathered species. Each year, triggered by the decreasing day length during winter, birds naturally enter into a short-term fast, stop egg production, shed their feathers, and undergo physical rejuvenation. When birds have completed a molt, they are healthier and more productive than they were before this process. Molting rejuvenates the reproductive cycle of the bird and extends the life of the hen.

The Scientific Committee considered all of the pros and cons of inducing a molt and concluded that inducing a molt, if done correctly and monitored, was an acceptable practice. Guidelines were provided for inducing the molt. After reviewing the research from four universities the scientific advisory committee has made new recommendations for molting programs that do not withdraw feed. In fact, UEP’s guidelines for the UEP Certified program only permit molting using non-feed withdrawal methods.

Handling and Transportation

The Scientific Committee recommendations place a great deal of importance on employee training and supervision during the handling and transportation of egg laying hens.

For a complete set of the technical producer guidelines, please click here or contact us at wecare@uepcertified.com.