Hen Care

Egg farmers are committed to quality care and well-being of hens.

What is Cage-Free?

Cage-free eggs are laid by hens that are able to roam vertically and horizontally in indoor houses, and have access to fresh food and water. Cage-free systems vary from farm-to-farm, and can include multi-tier aviaries. They must allow hens to exhibit natural behaviors and include enrichments such as scratch areas, perches and nests. Hens must have access to litter, protection from predators and be able to move in a barn in a manner that promotes bird welfare.

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UEP Certified Cage-Free Guidelines

See UEP Certified Cage-Free Guidelines

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UEP Certified Eggs Show Farm Commitment to Hen Care

Egg farmers are committed to providing the best care possible for their hens. To demonstrate this commitment, United Egg Producers (UEP) developed guidelines for optimal hen well-being – guidelines that are backed by decades of research and recommendations from an independent Scientific Advisory Committee. UEP Certified established guidelines for conventional cage housing in 2002 and for cage-free in 2006.

The UEP Certified Program addresses the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, ensuring excellent care and quality of life for hens.

  • Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
  • Freedom from Discomfort Due to the Environment
  • Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease
  • Freedom to Express Normal Behavior for the Species
  • Freedom from Fear and Distress

Fresh feed and water must be available to hens at all times. Along with the ability to regularly eat and drink, hens need the ability to move throughout their cages and interact with other hens. UEP cage-free standards require hens have the opportunity to express even more natural behaviors such as dust bathing and scratching. Hens are to be in housing that protects them from environmental extremes and provides a continuous flow of fresh air. Standards are in place to help ensure healthy hens and to mitigate potentially painful medical treatments. Procedures, if utilized, are done to improve the general welfare of the hens. Methods are implemented to help ensure hens are free of fear and distress from other hens, including separation of hens into cages, or in cage-free systems, access to appropriate perches.

In support of the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, UEP Certified has zero-tolerance for willful acts of abuse and neglect, requiring all program participants to implement a policy enforcing this commitment. All caretakers and anyone working with the hens must sign a Code of Conduct committing to this requirement. These and many other standards help to ensure the Five Freedoms for hens that are raised to the UEP Certified standards. To learn more, please read the complete UEP Certified Cage and UEP Certified Cage-Free guidelines.

More than 90 percent of eggs produced in the U.S. come from farms that voluntarily participate in UEP Certified, choosing to open their farms to independent auditors. Eggs from certified farms feature the UEP Certified seal on the egg carton.

About Us

United Egg Producers (UEP) is a cooperative of U.S. egg farmers working collaboratively to address legislative, regulatory and advocacy issues impacting the industry through active farmer-member leadership, a unified voice and partnership across the agriculture community. UEP’s farmer-members work to provide for the health and well-being of their birds; to produce safe, nutritious, high-quality eggs; and to manage their farms responsibly with best on-farm management practices. Leadership of and participation in the UEP Certified program by the vast majority of egg producers further demonstrates a broad commitment to the care of egg-laying hens. UEP also manages the national Egg Safety Center, a leading resource for consumer and industry information on the safe production of eggs and prevention of disease. Formed in 1968, UEP members represent 95 percent of US egg production.

Advisory Committee

Over 20 years ago, in 1999, UEP convened an independent, unpaid Scientific Advisory Committee to evaluate egg-laying hen well-being standards, review existing research, conduct new research and recommend changes for egg farms. The first recommendations from this advisory committee became the foundation for UEP Certified. The advisory committee continues today, for ongoing review of new research and modern egg farm standards, used for continuous improvement of the UEP Certified program.

advisory committee


Employee care and a safe environment are top priorities on egg farms

Egg farmers are vigilant in creating and maintaining a safe environment in all areas of the farm. UEP’s farmer-members collaborate with the USDA, state agencies, veterinarians and public health officials to responsibly address the needs of employees, local communities and their flocks. As a part of farmers’ regular biosecurity protocols, the nation’s egg farms are […]

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Hen Housing – the choice is yours

Like humans, hens need quality housing. Farmers must balance and weigh the tradeoffs between different styles of housing. Farmers consider several factors including hen health and well-being, weather protection, disease control, predator protection, economic feasibility and in-flock aggression. The ability for routine observation and specialized care are other important components when evaluating different types of […]

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Why are hens housed indoors?

A hundred years ago, eggs were produced in small flocks in farmyards. Hens were often harmed by predators or diseases and mortality was extremely high. Today many hens are housed inside barns to keep them safe and healthy. Safeguard from extreme weather Many of the nation’s hens are raised in Midwest states that experience extreme […]

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Questions about egg safety?