Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Businessweek
Checkout

Farmers See Sustainable Eggs as the Industry’s Next Big Thing

Raising chickens with “regenerative agriculture” could create a new premium category.
Hens are allowed to roam free at Brown’s farm, which produces sustainable eggs for NestFresh.

Hens are allowed to roam free at Brown’s farm, which produces sustainable eggs for NestFresh.

Photographer: Mary Kang/Bloomberg

On a recent sunny day, 13,000 chickens roam over Larry Brown’s 40 windswept acres in Shiner, Texas. Some rest in the shade of a parked car. Others drink water with the cows. This all seems random, but it’s by design, part of what the $6.1 billion U.S. egg industry bets will be its next big thing: climate-friendly eggs.

Over the past decade, producers have skillfully persuaded consumers to pay four times the price for a dozen eggs that are marketed as good for you (organic) or as much as seven times the cost for eggs raised under conditions considered better for the animals that laid them (pasture-raised and hand-harvested). That’s no mean feat, given that a carton of conventional eggs can still be had for less than $1. But savvy marketing has resulted in so-called specialty eggs grabbing about a third of the market today, and they’re projected to hit 70% in five years. Now, Brown and his peers are betting they can profit further by adding another layer of premiumization: eggs from a special type of sustainable farm that can be trumpeted as being better for the planet.