German egg farm transitions with the shell egg market

From privatization after the German reunification in 1990 to free-range and cage-free housing today, this shell egg producer has adapted to rapid changes in the retail market. Learn how a former East German egg farm has transitioned from conventional cages to enriched colonies and then to cage-free and free-range housing
  • 18Oct

Egg production was controlled by the state in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The country was divided into nine regions, with each region having around 1 million hens in cages, according to Norbert Brechters, managing director, Deutsche Marken-Ei, member of the Salmet Group. The layers in each region were placed on multiple farms which were located around a central caged pullet rearing farm.

After German reunification in 1990, the government owned farms were privatized and the owners of Salmet purchased the layer and pullet farms in the German state of Thuringia. The houses were solidly built, but the equipment on the farms needed to be updated. All of the cages were replaced on the three hen farms located in Hessen, Bavaria and Erfurt and at the pullet houses in Dillstädt.

Brechters said that one aspect of this 1 million hen and 450,000 pullet operation that was well thought out was spacing between the three layer complexes and the pullet farm, which provides a measure of biosecurity.

Hen housing legislation
A European Council Directive passed in 1999 banned conventional cages for housing laying hens effective January 1, 2012, but it also allowed for member states to impose the ban at an earlier date and they could enact stricter standards for hen housing within their own borders. It took nine years for the EU to set standards for what would be considered acceptable housing for hens. Included among the acceptable forms of housing for hens in the EU was the enriched cage. The German Bundestag took advantage of the option to enforce the cage ban at an earlier date, three years sooner, and to set a higher standard for hen housing — Kleingruppenhaltungen (colony nests) for Germany versus the enriched cage for the rest of the EU.

Read the full article in egg-industry-october-2018