The Quietly Amazing Story of Eggs, Hens, Farmers and the Environment

Egg farmers go about their business quietly, with a simple but focused commitment on continuous improvements in how they care for and raise their hens to produce eggs. This care starts with forethought into how best to design the system that egg farmers will use to house, feed and care for their laying hens.The goal of this planning?  Egg farms that are thoughtfully designed and constructed so that when the farms are in operation:

  • The laying hens can be well-cared for, well-fed, healthy and productive, yielding an abundant quantity of high-quality eggs at affordable prices.
  • The operation uses no more feed, water and energy than is absolutely required.
  • The manure the hens produce can be responsibly managed and recycled into highly productive uses like natural fertilizers for crops such as corn and soybeans that can again feed farm animals like laying hens, and do this with as little loss of nutrients to water or the air as possible.

The process of learning about and improving these systems never ends. Egg farmers are always working with top scientists, researchers, engineers and technical experts, studying their egg farming systems, looking for ways to make them better. When they find these improvements, the changes are incorporated into the next generation of egg farms’ design and operation.


The results of egg farmers’ care and commitment speak for themselves….

  • 50-year study….producing more eggs now than in 1960 but with fewer hens than in 1960 and a far smaller environmental footprint.
  • Manure management operations that
    • the U.S. EPA has called “zero-discharge systems” able to ensure no loss of manure or manure nutrients to streams and rivers
    • in the last 15 years are reducing the emissions of ammonia to the air by 40% -60%, or more. 

Farmers do this because it is the nature of farming – a quiet focus on solving problems and using resources wisely, efficiently and productively.

And what makes all of this so amazing is the scale – 90 billion+ eggs.

  • People in the U.S. eat eggs, a lot of eggs, and this means egg farmers have to produce a lot of eggs to satisfy our demand for this great food.
  • The government estimates that the average person eats about the equivalent of 280 eggs a year (either in direct form like scrambled or hard-boiled, or indirectly when eggs are in recipes for pancakes, cakes, cookies, pastas, breads, and many other foods).
  • And we are a big country, with about 330 million people living today.
  • Put that together and U.S. egg farmers are producing more than 90 billion eggs each year, raising and managing collectively a flock of about 300 million laying hens.

Care, commitment, seeking continuous improvement, attention to details, with a focus on caring well for their hens, producing 90 billion eggs, and doing all of this responsibly in order to protect the environment – this is the quietly amazing story of eggs, hens, farmers and the environment.

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Confused About Hormones and Eggs?

Two practical reasons why hormones are never used in egg or poultry production. 


Ensuring eggs are safe for your family is a top priority for egg farmers and they are committed to fully complying with all government regulations as applicable to their farms.

Hormones are Banned in Egg Production

Many consumers do not know that the FDA banned the use of hormones in the egg and poultry industry in the United States more than 60 years ago1. Adding to the confusion, some retailers and distributors add a “No Added Hormones” or similar message on their egg or poultry product packaging.  Misunderstandings may also arise due to the ability of beef producers to utilize hormones legally in production practice, due to proven safety and efficacy2.

Administering Hormones is Difficult and Costly

Even if hormones were permitted in the egg industry, it is unlikely they would be used. Extensive research conducted by a multitude of sources in avian nutrition has proven little to no benefits with the use of added hormones in poultry meat and egg production, plus it just simply is not practical.3

Chickens cannot actively benefit from the oral consumption of hormones, and research shows that chickens must be injected multiple times a day to see improvements of any functions. Not only is it unrealistic for a person to carry out this daunting task, but there are also many drawbacks to the financial aspects of such practices.

Instead, producers have focused on providing a well-maintained environment and maximizing the genetic potential of chickens to naturally increase production and reach the optimum performance of birds.

Hormones Natural Occur in all Living Things

Hormones are naturally occurring and found in all living things including plants, animals and people. They are natural internal messengers sending signals to direct important cell and tissue functions, like growth and development. Due to their natural occurrence, hormones are found in nearly everything we consume: meats, eggs, dairy products, vegetables, and fruits. But, no growth or production hormones are ever fed to pullets (younger hens) being grown to be egg-laying hens nor during the egg-laying period.

Egg farmers enjoy the same eggs with their families as they sell to consumers, so they understand and put a strong emphasis on ensuring food safety in every phase of egg production.

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  1. Steroid Hormone Implants Used for Growth in Food-Producing Animals,” published by FDA.
  2. USDA Meat and Poultry Labeling Terms
  3. Chickens Do Not Receive Growth Hormones: So Why All the Confusion?,” from The Poultry Site.


Hongwei Xin Applauded at Egg Industry Forum

Dr. Hongwei Xin was recognized for his years of service to the egg industry at the Egg Industry Forum on April 17. He previously served as the director of the Egg Industry Center (EIC) and assistant dean and a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and Animal Science at Iowa State University. On April 1, Xin began his new position as dean for AgResearch at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

In an interview with WattAG, Dr. Xin said “This change of position was not an easy decision, and a big part of that was the wonderful people in this industry. However, I am confident that the center and the industry will continue to move forward in this beautiful partnership that has developed.”

Dr. Xin is the Chair of UEP’s independent Environmental Scientific Panel (ESP) and plans to continue in this role. “Dr. Xin has been a friend, leader and dependable researcher to UEP and the egg community for more than 20 years,” said UEP President Chad Gregory.

Susan J. Lamont, a Charles .F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences and animal science professor, has been appointed the EIC interim director.

Additional Resources

For more information about eggs and the egg industry please follow the links below.