Your Frequently Asked Questions Answered


Are combination systems a good cage-free alternative?

Combination systems (also referred to as “convertible” or “hybrid” systems) are not a suitable alternative to true cage-free systems. These systems are multi-tiered structures that have doors, so although birds can roam when the doors are open, the system converts into a caged system when the doors are closed.

When the doors are closed, birds are confined at a stocking density comparable to that associated with conventional cages and they lack the key features necessary for laying hen welfare in cage-free systems. Combi systems have internal doors and partitions throughout each level of the structure preventing free movement throughout the system.

Other systems to avoid are limited access systems which confine hens to particular areas within the tiers (e.g., no access to barn floor). Hens should have access to all tiers, including the floor, at all times and be encouraged to move within and between tiers with ease.

The following resources outlines the science behind the benefits of moving to cage- free systems and CIWF’s Compassion’s stance on combination systems:

What’s the difference between cage-free, free-range, and pasture- raised eggs?

Terms like “cage-free”, “free-range”, and “pasture-raised” have no legal definition in the US. It is up to the producer to demonstrate higher welfare standards to the USDA, with many factors left unregulated.

Cage-free systems typically house hens on the floor of a barn or aviary and may or may not provide outdoor access for laying hens. Laying hens in these systems can express natural behaviors such as wing flapping, scratching, and dust bathing, unlike laying hens crowded in a caged system.

Free-range egg systems must accommodate an amount of outdoor access, although the outdoor conditions and outdoor space are left unregulated. Pasture-raised eggs are commonly known as the higher standard for providing more space per hen than free-range systems.

Since these terms are without legal definition, it is essential to understand and follow meaningful animal welfare certifications. For more information on third-party certifications and their requirements, please check out Compassion in World Farming's “Learn the Labels” webpage.

What are the differences between each category of egg?

We have four egg categories included in EggTrack this year; these are outlined in our Methodology section.

Does my cage-free commitment and transition progress have to be public?

Yes, commitments and any subsequent reporting need to be publicly disclosed to be included in EggTrack (not communicated privately). This transparency is one of the cornerstones of EggTrack, as public progress reporting demonstrates that a company holds itself accountable for its commitments. Public reporting communicates a company’s intentions to investors, customers, and other key stakeholders that it takes its social responsibility targets seriously. Disclosure of progress shows that a company has adequately prioritised its animal welfare commitments.

Why do I have to report on my bought eggs and not my sold eggs?

Company reporting must include all eggs used in a company’s supply chain, otherwise it isn’t fully representative of the total eggs purchased, and purchased and lacks transparency of caged eggs within in the companies supply chain.

Should I still report if we’ve stagnated in progress or regressed slightly due to avian flu?

Yes, Compassion is aware there have been multiple environmental and geo-political factors impacting the sourcing of eggs over the past several years and understands that progress towards cage free production has been affected.

Reporting, however, is still encouraged and a sudden lack of reporting could be seen negatively, especially if there is a lack of communication as to why progress has slowed. An absence of reporting leads interested parties to believe that the commitment has been abandoned rather than just in progress, albeit slower than desired.