Cage-free challenges: China egg industry leaders cite need for better traceability tech to prevent authenticity issues

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Egg industry leaders in China have highlighted a need to develop better traceability technology to ensure cage-free eggs reaching consumers are truly authentic. ©Getty Images
Egg industry leaders in China have highlighted a need to develop better traceability technology to ensure cage-free eggs reaching consumers are truly authentic. ©Getty Images

Related tags China Cage-free eggs

Egg industry leaders in China have highlighted a need to develop better traceability technology to ensure cage-free eggs reaching consumers are authentic, in order for the sector to reach the next phase of development.

The cage-free eggs movement​ has seen some major momentum in China over the past few years, primarily due to strong government support and two of the nation’s largest egg and egg product manufacturers – Ovodan Foods and Happy Eggs – having made the needed investments towards change.

This was first spurred by a rising demand for cage-free eggs in European countries as both Ovodan and Happy Eggs supply multiple multinational brands, and the Chinese egg sector in general sees this as a trend entering the local market as well, driven by demand from food brands and food service chains that have made commitments towards complete cage-free egg usage by 2025 or 2027.

But in the next phase of cage-free egg development in the Chinese market, industry experts now believe that there is a need for better traceability technology to be developed to prevent false claims of cage-free eggs being made as its popularity grows, especially given the generally higher pricing of these eggs.

“The main issue here in China is that although consumers know what cage-free eggs are and may demand them, they often don’t know the differentiation between eggs that are caged or cage-free,” ​Szechuan Xinde Agriculture spokeswoman Manly told the floor at the recent Sino-Malaysia Cage-Free Egg Symposium.

“This is why there is a strong need for this traceability technology to come in and give them assurance that the eggs they are consuming are definitely cage-free.

“Right now, it is important to not only look at increasing breeding or egg production but also provide this assurance, which will also help to open up the market so we can eventually bring cage-free prices down to be on par with regular eggs, and this will drive demand further to grow the industry.”

This was seconded by New Garden Eggs Director Zhi Wei Tao who told the floor that authenticity is a key factor to drive demand.

“Cage-free eggs have this issue of authenticity without the right traceability technology being developed, and currently it is very difficult to trace this back up the supply chain with existing tech as the environment makes it non-feasible,” ​he said.

“We know that at the industry level perhaps large hotel and supermarket chains may have understanding of how the eggs industry works, but at this point in time consumers may have heard of cage-free eggs but don’t always have a clear understanding of this.

“This limited knowledge also means that it is not possible to sell cage-free eggs based on arguments [that sell in western markets] such as animal welfare – and this means that demand would be lower, but a lack of demand means pricing is higher, which would drive a vicious cycle.

“Being able to establish authenticity will help in giving more merit to cage-free egg development and to fetch better prices especially amongst consumers who just feel that an egg is an egg, but this will need more research and investment to be put in place.”

Cage-free egg technologies so far

At present, most technology in this sector has understandably been centred around operational improvement and ensuring animal health and food safety.

For example, Happy Eggs demonstrated its use of a progressive antibiotic-free A50 feed technology developed by scientists to promote balanced feed for its chickens, including the areas of amino acid balance, vitamin balance, mineral balance and so on which the firm claims is what minimises feed pain points, guarantees the quality of its cage-free eggs and allows it to produce eggs that ‘do not change colour even if kept in the fridge’​.

Malaysia’s TF Farm has some traceability, where each of its barns keeps records of the number of eggs produced daily but this would likely not suffice in terms of individual tracking, so overall, there definitely appears to be a traceability technology gap in this market right now.

Related news

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars

Headlines