Burning Questions
Fellowship Award Winners

Ashleigh Bright

Location: New Zealand
Academic field: Zoology
Award category: PhD Holder

Topics to be Addressed during the Award Period:

Egg producers and egg retailers/buyers disconnect as a critical barrier in the transition to cage-free eggs production in China.

  • The current situation with cage-free eggs production in China:
    • What are the current timeframes? How are the commitments of international brands and food businesses to source cage-free eggs being implemented locally and regionally within China?
    • What are the ‘on-the-ground’ cage-free production plans by breeders, equipment manufacturers and egg processors?
  • Production factors contributing to producer-buyer disconnect:
    • What are the production comparisons and costs for cage and cage-free eggs, and what implications do they have for producers and buyers?
    • Are these implications the same or different from those in high-income countries (US, UK, Germany)? Can there be relevance and learnings in the experiences of these countries for Chinese producers and buyers?
  • Egg supply chain and market factors contributing to producer-buyer disconnect, as well as a case study of egg supply and demand in two cities within major Chinese egg producing provinces:
    • What is the shell and liquid/powder egg market structure, and what are its implications for producers and buyers?
    • What are the differences between small/local and industrial supply, and what influences do they have on each other?
    • What light does this shed on cage-free demand and supply issues in China’s key egg producing regions?
  • Wider activities affecting the egg industry:
    • Are there (i) government policies and incentives, (ii) activities by academia, animal welfare groups, egg and agriculture industry organizations, that are hindering or supporting producer and buyer engagement?

Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application:

  • China is the world's largest egg producer. For the past decade, international retailers, brands, consumers, and NGOs have been trying to get Chinese egg producers to keep their hens in cage-free systems. But the transition from cage to cage-free faces bottlenecks. Clearing these bottlenecks is challenging:
    • Chinese egg supply chains are complex, highly variable, and fast evolving. Production data are needed in order to resolve problems, but these are buried in academic literature or commercially sensitive so are not publicly available.
    • Production and supply chain information at farm, city, and province level can be difficult to access and interpret for those not involved in the industry.
    • For producers to invest in expensive cage-free equipment and new management, they need confidence that buyers understand the challenges they face and will support them during the transition.
  • One major bottleneck is the disconnect between producers/farmers and buyers/retailers. That is why pinpointing the trouble spots, coming up with reliable, contextualized information at a granular level, understanding the views of and actual reality faced by farmers, producers, buyers, retailers, clarifying where exactly the disjointedness among these parties occur, providing transparency and sharing information so open discussions are possible, are all helpful in bringing down barriers and clearing bottlenecks.
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