How Farmers Care For Hens

Ensuring the health and well-being of hens is a top priority for U.S. egg farmers, while providing safe, high-quality eggs to you and your family. To ensure egg safety and the highest quality care to hens, the United Egg Producers developed UEP Certified, a voluntary animal well-being program. When you purchase eggs with the UEP Certified seal, rest assured eggs are produced under these guidelines:
  • Strict biosecurity measures protect food safety and hen health.
  • All employees are trained to treat birds with care at all times, and all sign a code of conduct for proper animal handling.
  • An annual compliance audit is conducted by independent third-party inspectors.
  • Nutritious feed (with no added hormones), clean water and fresh air are available at all times.
  • Programs to induce molt through feed withdrawal are prohibited.
  • Hens are provided adequate space based on scientific recommendations.
  • Cage free houses include space for nests and perches.
download complete UEP Certified guidelines

Hen Well-being & Food Safety Timeline

See how the egg industry's animal welfare, food safety and sustainability practices have grown over the years.

  • 1910s & 1920s
  • 1930s & 1940s
  • 1950s & 1960s
  • 1970s & 1980s
  • 1990s & 2000s
  • Today
1910s & 1920s

Eggs were produced in backyards.

  • Hens ate whatever they found outside, including their own waste.
  • Weather, predators and parasites were challenges with hens outdoors.
  • Normal mortality rate was 40% per year.
  • Eggs were gathered by hand.

Of the 76 million people in the U.S., 44% were farmers.

1930s & 1940s

Most eggs produced in small flocks of chickens in farmyards.

  • Approximately 150 eggs were produced per hen per year.
  • Hens sometimes laid eggs in their waste.
  • Many eggs were contaminated by microbes from poultry disease.

Cage systems were introduced, because research showed many benefits to moving hens indoors.

1950s & 1960s

While some farmers continued to use cage-free housing, use of cages became more popular.

  • Feeding practices improved hen health.
  • Indoor housing reduced parasite infections and disease spread from rodents.
  • Manure was separated from hens, as it fell into storage under cages.
  • Separate conveyor belts carried away manure and eggs for processing.

Breeding programs improved disease resistance and egg-laying productivity. Overall hen mortality rate improved to 18%.

Flocks started to become larger due to improved technology and equipment.

1970s & 1980s

USDA* Food Safety Inspection Service implemented continuous audit program for all egg products made in the U.S.

Standards for cleaning and inspecting eggs became more rigid.

Study showed that eggs could be contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis.

United Egg Producers (UEP) developed the first industry guidelines.

1990s & 2000s

Various programs were implemented to improve egg safety.

  • FDA Egg Safety Action Plan reduced Salmonella Enteritidis infections associated with eggs.
  • UEP initiated 5-Star Total Quality Assurance.
  • Egg farmers implemented changes in accordance with the FDA Egg Safety Final Rule in 2009-2010, with more measures to prevent Salmonella contamination.

UEP Animal Welfare and Scientific Advisory committees were established.

  • UEP Certified was launched in 2002 with guidelines for hen well-being in conventional cage houses.
  • UEP Certified added guidelines for cage-free production in 2006.
Today

87 billion table eggs were produced in the U.S. in 2014.

Each hen produces about 286 eggs per year on a modern egg farm.

FDA employees inspect 100 farms per year.

UEP regularly updates the food safety program and has established a food safety committee.

Egg farmers implement both mandatory and voluntary on-farm safety programs