The average German citizen consumes around 236 eggs each per year, which over 48 million laying hens work flat out to produce. However, they are rarely thanked for it. At the end of 2018, 5.9 million birds were locked in cages, almost 63 per cent of hens were kept in barns and just 20 per cent in free range conditions. Only 12 per cent of laying hens are farmed organically and they produce around 5 per cent of all eggs in Germany. Depending on the breed, one organic chicken can lay up to 300 eggs per year.
The work of organic egg producers generates a wealth of additional benefits for their customers, the environment and, in particular, their hens. These benefits include environmental protection, species-appropriate husbandry practices, organic feed, strengthening of the birds' immune systems, adequate space for each bird and organic rearing of young birds. A caged egg may seem cheaper than an organic egg at first glance but once you factor in the environmental costs, the organic egg is definitely worth the money.
Laying hens and broilers each have their own specific breeding lines: hens that lay a lot of eggs and broilers that produce a lot of meat. The male birds produced as a result of laying hen breeding are not particularly fleshy, which makes them unsuitable for meat production. They are often culled in conventional hatcheries or given away to zoos. The particular requirements of organic and free range husbandry are also disregarded during the breeding process. These "hybrid breeds" are only bred by a handful of establishments worldwide. For genetic reasons, poultry farmers are unable use the hybrid birds for breeding.
This is an untenable situation for organic farming, which is why research institutions and alternative breeding establishments are working together to breed a "dual-purpose chicken".