This summit received strong support from the government, universities, NGO, industry associations and enterprises. More than 160 participants from academia, industry (breeding, equipment, processing, etc), catering and retail, and research institutions attended the annual event to connect and collaborate for the future of cage-free eggs in China.
Roles as Producers
During the summit, many producers and retailers from China addressed their roles and limitations when choosing cage-free for their own company. Ms. Eldren Paixao, a procurement and supply chain professional of Barilla, emphasised the educational role of food companies in encouraging consumers to purchase better and more responsible products. This resonated with Ms. Huang Dandan, marketing director of Zoo Coffee, who explained that coffee is an influential medium through which to change consumer behaviour and encourage ethical and more responsible consumption. These few examples demonstrate the power producers and retailers hold in influencing consumer behaviour and shifting the demand for eggs towards more sustainable and ethical systems represented by cage-free practices.
Three Chinese producers (Suzhou Ovodan Foods Co., Happy Eggs (Hainan) Agriculture Development Co., Pingyao Wehai Ecological Agriculture Co.) received the international laying hen animal welfare certification from Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) and became the first group of companies in China to meet international animal welfare standards. These producers not only educate and reassure their consumers regarding how their eggs are produced, but also demonstrate to other producers that achieving international animal welfare standards is a feasible and desirable progression for Chinese enterprises. This will hopefully encourage more producers to follow the path of pursuing local or international certification in order to enhance their farming practices and egg products.
Connecting with the public
Many speakers also shared strategies, backed by successful experiences, to connect effectively with the public. Ms. Huang Dandan advised using simple and emotive stories to convey the importance of cage-free systems. There must be a strong, positive narrative in which the consumers can empathise with, she said. For example, Zoo Coffee marketed dairy-free milk as “giving cows a holiday” when it was first introduced into the retail market. In addition to an attractive story, Mr. Han Taixin, vice president of Suzhou Ovodan Food Co., bridged deeper connections with laying hens by showing videos taken inside cage-free barns. Significant differences in the behaviours of hens raised in caged and cage-free systems would likely help consumers understand animal welfare more vividly. Videos, along with other strategies, that uphold the value of cage-free systems can also be leveraged as unique selling points for brands, said Mr. Hu Minjie, general manager of Zhejiang Xinde Agriculture Co.
Egg producers in China face certain limitations, especially with a significant increase in the cost-benefit ratio of changing from caged to cage-free system and the strict rules implemented by newly introduced certification schemes. Mr. Hou Jie, director of customer solutions of Big Dutchman China, shared that cage-free systems generally cost 30% more than caged systems to execute and maintain, yet the price premium is only 10% higher. Furthermore, the first egg enterprise in China to receive HFAC certification, Suzhou Ovodan Food Co., had to implement multiple changes in order to adhere to the strict requirements set by HFAC, Mr. Han Taixin explained.
In terms of transitioning, Ms. Huang Muci introduced …….