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BrownfieldAgNews reports:

An ag economist with the Egg Industry Center says producers transitioning to cage-free are taking a huge leap of faith.

Maro Ibarburu tells Brownfield the capital investment necessary for cage-free egg production remains very high, and there's still uncertainty about the system itself.

"It's still not very clear what is the definition of cage-free, and this is going to depend on each customer. Each customer will perceive that cage-free is a different thing."

While cage-free egg consumption has risen in the last decade, he tells Brownfield 88 percent of U.S. consumers still choose the cheaper conventional alternative.

Ibarburu says it's hard to assure producers that demand for cage-free eggs will keep growing, and compares the risk involved to buying a home.

"You need to pay for that house for many years. So you cannot buy the house and the next month say you don't like the house so I'm going to tear it down and build something different."

In addition to the higher costs and demand unknowns of cage-free egg production, Ibarburu says mortality rates go up and feed efficiency goes down compared to conventional operations.

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