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The Caged Chicken or the Free-Range Egg? The Regulatory and Market Dynamics of Layer-Hen Welfare in the UK, Australia and the USA

Abstract

Since the 1990s there have been a number of government and market led initiatives to improve the welfare of layer hens in the United Kingdom, Australia and the USA. The focus of these regulatory and market initiatives has been a shift away from the dominant battery-cage system to enriched cages, barn/aviary and free-range production systems. Government regulations have played an important role in setting some minimum welfare standards and the banning of battery cages in the UK and in some US states. However the commodification and market segmentation of higher welfare standards has also seen the growth in production and demand of cage-free and free-range eggs in all three countries. This paper maps and compares the developments in government regulation and market segmentation of layer-hen welfare in the UK, Australia and the USA. The role of labelling and certification in facilitating commodification and market segmentation will be examined, including the public controversies and legal conflicts over egg labelling. The key state, market and civil society actors in each country will also be identified, and their role in driving or resisting higher standards examined, including the increasingly influential role of animal welfare organizations and food corporations.

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Funding source: Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project (DP150102168).

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Scrinis, G., Parker, C. & Carey, R. The Caged Chicken or the Free-Range Egg? The Regulatory and Market Dynamics of Layer-Hen Welfare in the UK, Australia and the USA. J Agric Environ Ethics 30, 783–808 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-017-9699-y

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Keywords

  • Animal welfare
  • Food policy
  • Regulation
  • Food labelling
  • Egg farming