Egg Industry Presentations

U.S. Egg Industry Environmental Footprint: A 50-Year Comparison, Dr. Hongwei Xin

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If you are a geneticist, a nutritionist, a poultry health professional or an agricultural engineer at any time during the past 50 years, take a bow for your efforts.

According to the research conducted by Dr. Hongwei Xin and his colleagues at Iowa State University, including Maro Ibarburu of the EIC and Dr. Nathan Pelletier of Canada, the egg production industry has made vast strides in sustainability over the past 5 decades.

Dr Xin reported on a detailed analysis of the environmental impact of egg production comparing 1960 values with comparative figures pertaining in 2010 at the 2013 Egg Industry Issues Forum in Saint Louis on Tuesday 16th April.

The “Environmental Footprint “ for egg production was evaluated according to the following criteria:-

  • Global Warming Potential (GWP): This is the measure of heat trapped by greenhouse gases as compared to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • Acidifying emissions: A measure of the emissions that reduce pH (increase acidity) in ecological systems as a result of releases of nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide or ammonia
  • Utrophying emissions: Natural compounds including nitrates and phosphates in excreta are released into aquatic systems stimulating growth of algae and reducing oxygen level of water
  • Cumulative Energy Demand (CED): Lifecycle energy needs for production measured in Megajoules (MJ)


Dr. Hongwei Xin

Dr. Xin and his team evaluated the inputs at each stage of the sequence of production including cultivation of crops,  livestock processing and rendering, all leading to eggs and manure as the outputs.  Data relating to 1960 production was obtained from published literature and official reports.  Information used to calculate the significant environmental parameters were derived from a comprehensive survey of production operations.

The study demonstrated the following improvements over the past 50 years:-

In comparison with 1963, 2010 flocks:-

  • Had a 26% lower feed intake
  • Showed 27% higher hen-day average production
  • Demonstrated a 42% improvement in feed conversion
  • Experienced  5% lower mortality
  • Achieved a 32% reduction in water use

If 1960 technology was still used to produce the equivalent quantity of eggs, our Industry would require:-

  • 78 million more hens or an increase of 27% in flock size
  • Incremental output from 1.3 million acres planted to corn
  • Additional output from 1.8 million acres planted to soybeans

The calculation of the environmental footprint showed that hens in production during 2010 have an approximately 65% to 70% lower impact on the environment than in 1960.  Total energy required for the same quantity of eggs has been reduced by 31%.

The greatest opportunities to improve the environmental footprint of laying flocks will involve enhancing feed efficiency and more optimal management of manure.

The presentation used by Dr. Xin is reproduced for the benefit of readers and subscribers to EGG-CITE.

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• View the Presentation as a PDF file