mortality: death; a term often used as a mortality rate referring to the percentage of a population that dies
Gallus domesticas: the scientific name for the domestic chicken often raised for meat and/or eggs
selective breeding: also known as artificial selection, the process by which humans select specific plants or animals for breeding with the hope of developing specific ideal traits in plants or animals
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
As of March 2019, organic and cage-free shell egg production accounted for 18.3% of the current table egg layer flock. Of this, 4.7% are organic (14.6 million hens) and 8.5% are cage-free (26.6 million hens).1
The top egg producing states are Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio.2
The U.S. produces about 75 billion eggs per year, about 10% of the world supply.3
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
Print 1 classroom copy of the attached, Video Quote Cards. Hold them up or attach them to the board for students to see. Ask students to draw on their prior knowledge about economics and marketing to try to explain what the quotes mean and to give examples that illustrate the theme of each quote.
After watching the video clip, ask students the following questions:
What is a market? (any place where buyers and sellers meet to exchange goods and services.)
What is the concept of voluntary exchange? (buyers and sellers willingly decide to make a transaction.)
What is an equilibrium price and quantity? (Where the supply and demand curve meet.)
Refer back to the video quotes from step one and show students the image below of various egg cartons. Ask students what type of labels they notice on the egg cartons and how each of these labels can impact the marketing (supply and demand) of eggs. Students should note specific phrases on the labels such as brown eggs, cage free, omega 3, organic, pasture raised, and free range. Ask students what they think these labels mean and how they impact the supply and demand for eggs in the United States.
Activity 1: Weighing in on Egg Labels
Project the Egg Labels and Marketing PowerPoint.
Ask students to picture the egg department at the grocery store (slide 2) and imagine that they are determining the value of various cartons of eggs. Perform a survey with your class using slides 3-11. Students will guess which carton of eggs will likely cost more and then determine which eggs they would choose in the role of a consumer. Accept any answers and note trends in your students' choices. (ie: if the majority of the class always chooses the cheapest option, if students seem to prefer brown eggs over white eggs, etc.) Intermittently, allow students to share reasoning behind their choice.
After the survey, ask students, "How can marketing, such as a label on an egg carton, impact buying choices?" (to some consumers, the labels could persuade them to purchase one carton of eggs over another and/or be willing to pay more for an egg labeled in a specific way.)
Allow students time to read through the infographic learning the definition of each egg label in preparation for the next activity.
Using PowerPoint slide 12, review some basic economic principles of egg production:
Brown shelled eggs typically cost more than white shelled eggs because the breeds of chicken that lay brown eggs are typically bigger and eat more feed, but do not lay more eggs.
White eggs produced in conventional style housing are typically the cheapest because that is the most cost effective way to produce eggs.
Eggs produced in cage-free or free range housing systems cost more because these housing systems have higher production costs to the farmer.
All eggs, regardless of the color of the shell or the type of farm they were produced on, provide the same level of nutrients to our diet.5
Activity 2: History and Introduction to the Egg Industry
Ask students if they believe that egg farming has changed in the last 100 years. Explain that 100 years ago many families produced their own eggs. Progressively, egg-laying hens moved out of backyards and onto farms. These farms have increased in size and technological advancements through the years.
Watch the Eggs 101- Barns video clip. This 3-minute video clip gives an overview for how hen housing systems have evolved and the types of hen housing systems that exist today.
As the students watch the video, have them list the goals egg farmers have as egg farming evolved:
Provide high quality, nutritious, and economical eggs for consumers.
Protect hens from weather and predators.
Decrease diseases and parasites in the flock.
Access to fresh feed, water, light, and sanitary conditions.
Watch the Eggs 101 - Hen Health video clip. As students watch the video clip, they should take note of things that are important to consumers in the market to buy eggs. (Humane animal care standards, healthy eggs free from salmonella, etc.)
Refer back to the video quotes from step one of the Interest Approach. Discuss how farmers have followed these principles as egg farming practices have evolved. Examples include:
Consumers would like eggs that are safe (free of foodborne illness like salmonella) and consistent in nutrition. Egg markets encouraged farmers to find ways to provide this for consumers by improving hen health and nutrition.
Due to voluntary exchange, farmers would go out of business if they produced eggs that did not benefit the consumer by providing a safe and nutritious food item. As farmers produce quality and nutritious eggs, consumers benefit and both are better off.
As consumers choose which eggs they buy (white, brown, free range, etc.) it signals to farmers what kind of eggs to produce. If 90% of consumers choose the most economical egg (white shelled eggs from a conventional egg farm), then the majority of farmers will continue to produce these eggs. If there is a market for brown or cage-free eggs, farmers will produce these eggs.
Activity 3: Marketing Eggs
Ask students, "How are market prices for eggs (or any product) determined?" (Market prices are where supply and demand meet. Remind students of the video clip they watched at the beginning of the lesson)
Open the Egg Labels and Marketing PowerPoint and project slide 13 onto your whiteboard. Inform your students that you are going to graph a demand curve for your class. Ask your students to raise their hand if they would pay $3.00 for 1 dozen conventional, white-shelled eggs. Count how many students raise their hand and place a dot on the graph. Next, ask how many students would pay $2.75 for 1 dozen conventional white-shelled eggs. Graph that number and continue down the left side of the graph until you have asked about each price of egg. Connect the dots to create a demand curve for your class.
Without erasing your whiteboard, proceed to slide 14 and discuss what a supply curve represents. (The number of producers willing to sell eggs for a given price.) Be sure students understand that farmers make economical decisions. To stay in business, they must sell their product for more than it cost them to produce it. A conventional egg farmer must consider the cost of buying and raising hens, buying feed, purchasing and maintaining their hen housing and egg processing equipment, etc. Compared to other methods of raising hens for egg production, conventional eggs are the most economical.
Add a demand curve to the graph. Have students identify the current cost at a local grocery store for one dozen white-shelled, conventional eggs. For this discussion, make this price the market equilibrium. Complete the demand curve with hypothetical numbers to show that most (or all) farmers will produce and sell their eggs at a high cost and few farmers will produce and sell eggs at a very low cost.
Using slides 15 and 16 repeat the same process (steps 2-4) with the brown-shelled, free range eggs. Most likely, fewer students will be willing to pay the higher premium for free-range eggs. Currently this marketing pattern is also evident in the general consumer population. As a result, more eggs are produced on conventional egg farms than free-range farms. Farmers will continue to produce eggs (and other products) according to demand.
Optional: Now that students have a foundational knowledge of various egg production practices and their associated labels, challenge students to design an egg carton for an egg farmer. Before beginning the project, review the infographic, A Road Map to a Better Egg Package. Students should determine which type of production system they will choose (conventional, cage free, organic, etc.) based upon the level of demand they determine can be found.
Remind students that shell color is determined by the breed of hen. Hens who lay brown eggs are larger and require more feed than hens who lay white eggs. This increases the production cost of brown eggs. The nutritional value of each egg, regardless of the shell color or retail price, is equivalent.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
Farmers provide the supply and consumers provide the demand for agricultural products such as eggs.
Change in cultural preferences impact production processes in agriculture. For example, if more consumers create a demand for cage-free or free-range eggs, more farmers will adopt this production style. If most consumers still prefer lower-cost eggs from conventional style egg production, the majority of egg production will remain conventional.
Food labeling affects consumer choices.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Give students a video tour of Burnbrae Farms, a large egg farm in Canada with several styles of hen-housing. Have students watch each video and compare and contrast the benefits and disadvantages for each housing system in a T-chart. After completing the activity, students should recognize that when accounting for all factors there is no single "best" or "worst" system. Each producer and consumer chooses their preference according to the market equilibrium for each style of egg production.
Discuss how marketing impacts the decisions consumers make regarding their diet and health. Could the higher price of brown-shelled eggs, or eggs produced in a free-range or cage-free facility lead some consumers to believe that the actual egg contains more or better nutrients? Does the influence of family, peers, and media impact consumer choices and perceptions? Discuss ideas about how these misconceptions could be eliminated.
Provide examples of how changes in cultural preferences influence production, processing, marketing, and trade of agricultural products (T5.9-12.j)
Food, Health, and Lifestyle
Explain food labeling terminology related to marketing and how it affects consumer choices (e.g., natural, free-range, certified organic, conventional, cage-free, zero-trans-fat, sugar-free, reduced calorie) (T3.9-12.e)
Explain how food production systems are influenced by consumer choices (T3.9-12.f)
Identify markets in which they have participated as a buyer and as a seller and describe how the interaction of all buyers and sellers influences prices. Also, predict how prices change when there is either a shortage or surplus of the product available.