This report includes our desk research conducted in October 2021 and our in-person research conducted in December 2021.
A three-week long country visit took place in Lower Saxony and North Rhein Westphalia regions of Germany. This report is a follow-up from the previously written desk research mini-report. During the visit, several different stakeholders were engaged in order to assess the potential impact and feasibility of an animal welfare intervention focused on improving the nutrient levels in egg-laying hen feed. The established egg industry players seem to be in control of the market and farm data. There is no regulation in place for minimal nutrient levels, however, recommendations are in place by breeders, which are typically adhered to by the farmers. The interviewed farmers (small-scale) are price-conscious as far as feed goes and generally were unaware of the keel bone fracture (KBF) issue. Regular inspections are held at farms but relevant data are not generally made public. Feed mills are generally flexible and willing to produce custom tailored feeds. However, representatives were rather hard to reach. Tested feeds exhibited close to optimal key nutrient levels, with many high-quality products readily available on the market. Despite clear labeling requirements, the feeds still are known to vary in nutrient levels by ±15%. The interviewed veterinarians seem upset with the situation as they feel there is limited access for improving hen welfare on actual farms.
Several NGOs are active in the space, with a couple considering campaigns surrounding the breeding and hen genetics. Despite the latest developments in pro-sustainability and animal welfare politics, there is a lot of uncertainty whether such a progressive coalition can remain for more than one term. Finally, despite being rather disorganized at the time of visit, the EA space is active with many engaged and interested members.
Please read our full report below.