Housing systems for laying hens have changed over the years due to increased public concern regarding animal welfare. In terms of sustainability, animal welfare is just one aspect that needs to be considered. Social aspects as well as environmental and economic factors need to be included as well. In this study, we assessed the sustainability of enriched cage, barn, free-range, and organic egg production systems following a predefined protocol. Indicators were selected within the social, environmental, and economic dimensions, after which parameter values and sustainability limits were set for the core indicators in order to quantify sustainability. Uncertainty in the parameter values as well as assigned weights and compensabilities of the indicators influenced the outcome of the sustainability assessment. Using equal weights for the indicators showed that, for the Dutch situation, enriched cage egg production was most sustainable, having the highest score on the environmental dimension, whereas free-range egg production gave the highest score in the social dimension (covering food safety, animal welfare, and human welfare). In the economic dimension both enriched cage egg and organic egg production had the highest sustainability score. When weights were attributed according to stakeholder outputs, individual differences were seen, but the overall scores were comparable to the sustainability scores based on equal weights. The provided method enabled a quantification of sustainability using input from stakeholders to include societal preferences in the overall assessment. Allowing for different weights and compensabilities helps policymakers in communicating with stakeholders involved and provides a weighted decision regarding future housing systems for laying hens.
- different housing systems
- environmental impacts