Valuable updates at UEP Area Briefings

September 1, 2022

Over 300 participants attended the UEP Area Briefings held in four virtual sessions on August 23 and 24. Presenters shared valuable information on current and future UEP and industry initiatives. Each briefing started with opening comments by the Area Chairs.

President and CEO Chad Gregory noted the significant progress made on UEP’s Strategic Priorities. “Team Egg,” established under the Industry Collaboration & Communications priority, continues to meet quarterly and partner on HPAI and other significant issues.

Under Sustainability, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is undergoing third party-review. Once completed, the American Egg Board will communicate the LCA final results to stakeholders, retailers, consumers and other organizations. The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Poultry & Egg (US-RSPE) will release its reporting framework by year-end, enabling producers to define and share sustainability achievements.

The Government Affairs task force's efforts to increase EGGPAC awareness and contributions have been successful, with current donations of $92,693 YTD. The Legislative Meeting EGGPAC Cruise raised over $26,000, and the monthly recurring contribution option is providing significant contributions.

The Government Relations Committee and UEP’s Washington team continue to focus on the five top priorities defined by the committee in 2021. As reported by UEP Regulatory Consultant Randy Green, as a result of requests from egg farmers and other livestock and poultry groups, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have instructed the FDA to conduct consumer research as the agency prepares to issue guidance for labeling plant-based foods that imitate eggs, meat and other animal protein sources. If consumers are confused about what is in these products or see them as healthier than they really are, there will be a strong argument for FDA to crack down on labeling that uses words like “egg” and images of eggs on products that contain no eggs.

The Market Transparency taskforce has conducted a pilot program with USDA and will present its findings at UEP’s October Board meeting.

Animal Health & Biosecurity

Oscar Garrison, SVP of food safety regulatory affairs, summarized the recent HPAI detections, noting confirmations in commercial turkey and broiler breeder flocks in California and backyard flocks in CA and UT. Detections continue in wild birds across the country, and small land mammals are also being detected as infected with the outbreak strain of HPAI. Garrison encourages all producers to maintain heightened biosecurity as the best defense to keep HPAI off of farms.

Food Safety

Garrison provided food safety regulatory updates stating that FDA is actively conducting inspections with enhanced biosecurity precautions.  He reviewed the FDA guidance document for farms with laying hens having access outside the poultry house as it relates specifically to the FDA Egg Safety Rule. Also discussed was the final publication of the FDA proposed Traceability Rule, expected in the fall, and the FDA registry of six FDA recognized accreditation bodies for the Laboratory Accreditation for Analyses of Foods (LAAF) for the pending Laboratory Accreditation Rule. In related news, Food Safety News published a checklist for the FDA food traceability rule, and FDA posted additional FAQs for the Food Safety Modernization Act final rule on LAAF.

Animal Welfare

Dr. Larry Sadler, VP of animal welfare, reminded participants of the new UEP Certified training videos. UEP Certified audits were conducted as desk audits for the first part of the year due to HPAI. On-farm audits resumed on July 1. Over 60% of the audits are completed, and the deadline for completion is November 15. He briefly discussed the proposed Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards. See the article on page six for more on this proposed rule. Dr. Sadler also reviewed the progress on the Scientific Committee’s recommendations for updates to the UEP Certified Guidelines. These updates are on schedule to be presented to the Board during the October annual meeting.

Cage-Free Transition

Dr. Sadler discussed current cage-free data and commitments by various sectors to transition to cage-free eggs. He also reviewed the UEP State Housing Summary and Arizona’s delay in implementing a portion of its cage-free law until January 1, 2023, due to HPAI.

Update from the American Egg Board (AEB)

AEB President and CEO Emily Metz presented the organization’s 2022 marketing and retail programs and the status of food chain outreach. She shared initiatives from AEB’s Eggcelerator Lab and spoke about the Egg Nutrition Center’s work on communicating the health benefits of eggs and correcting misconceptions about cholesterol and eggs with physicians and consumers. The AEB and UEP communications teams are working on crisis readiness for the fall, specifically targeting HPAI and the cage-free transition.