Council Directive 1999/74/EC (July 1999) made a distinction between 3 types of rearing systems for laying hens. Of these, the non-enriched cage systems have been prohibited since 1 January 2012. The systems which remain in use are:
- enriched cages where laying hens have at least 750 cm² of cage area per hen
- alternative systems where laying hens can move freely with a stocking density not exceeding 9 laying hens per m² usable area
Whichever system is used, all hens must have a nest, perching space, litter to allow pecking and scratching and unrestricted access to a feed trough and drinking device.
The directive also states that all egg production units must be registered with the competent authorities in EU countries and have a distinguishing number which can be used to trace eggs back to their farm of origin.
For full details please refer to the directive.
For scientific opinions on the welfare aspects of laying hens, please consult the EFSA website.
In 2021, the European Commission launched a two-year pilot project on "Best practices for transitioning to higher welfare cage-free egg production systems". The project will help egg producers meet market demand by providing practical guidance on how to transition to cage-free systems.
On 3rd May 2023, the final results from this project will be presented at a high-level conference in Brussels.
Conference: Best practices for alternative egg production system
The draft agenda and the registration details are available on this link.
To participate in the conference, free of charge, you need to register by 18 April on the following link: Registration: Best practices for alternative egg production systems.
Please note that the Commission does not reimburse travel and accommodation costs. The event will be publicly available via web streaming.