Are China and India the most promising countries for animal advocacy? A systematic country comparison
When considering a new charity to start, the question of which country to target is an important one. This post explains the process for prioritizing countries and how this system is applied to different countries.
Most of the time, the decision is not obvious. For example, China accounts for ~48% of the total global production of farm animals but received only a small percentage of funding and attention compared to the USA, which that accounts for only 1.95% of total production.
Global production of farm animals
Does it mean that China should be prioritized over other countries? Given the political and legal situation, such as strict governmental regulation of NGOs or lack of animal protection laws, progress in this country might be less tractable. Additionally, with almost all large problems, the absolute scale of the problem isn’t the most important factor to consider. That’s because almost always, the relative impact of work in a given country is not going to be capped because we reach the maximum scale of animals that can be affected, but because it is going to be slowed down or stopped by other factors much faster than they will by the total capacity of the problem. For example, if in China there is only $100,000 of total funding for animal activism, it doesn't really matter how big the animal production is from the scale perspective as long as it’s much larger than we are likely to help effectively with $100,000.
Another example would be India. The country is responsible for almost 10% of the global animal production due to its extremely large population, and despite a high vegetarianism rate. It would be naive, however, to infer that India is highly promising for animal advocates purely based on this national production figure. Many policies to improve the lives of animals in India would be realistically implemented not on a national level but on the level of individual states; the same is true, of course, for large countries like the United States. Changing policies at the level of the Indian national government is immensely difficult and likely too intractable. In practice, animal advocacy groups operating in India should therefore mostly focus on changing state legislation, which is much more tractable. For this reason, figures on national-level animal production and human population might be misleading in cases like India and the US, and state-level figures are much more meaningful. Importantly, not all Indian states are created equal: After all, they vary in size from a large country (200 million in Uttar Pradesh) to a medium-sized city (1.5 million in Goa). These considerations matter a lot when we are comparing India to other countries. Nobody would think to compare Germany to Africa when choosing a country to operate in, yet India has a bigger human population than the whole African continent. When considering what location to work in, often there is more detail required than national population or animal production numbers. This is one of many examples illustrating why we tried to look at many factors simultaneously when selecting a country to work in.
Another issue when choosing the country is the difference between the net production of animal products and net consumption. When we analyze the data, the results show a correlation of only 0.35 between production and consumption of fish in a given country. That means only 12% of consumption in the given country is explained by the production. And indeed, the list of priority countries is different for those two variables. This means that a country should be prioritized based on the approach that is going to be used there. For example, Bangladesh is the fourth most promising country (from the scale perspective) to work in when addressing high production. Therefore, higher welfare standards for animals can be ensured through corporate outreach and governmental lobbying. However, Bangladesh is in the 116th place when analyzed from the perspective of the overall consumption of animal products, so focusing on individual change to promoting veganism or reducetarianism or increasing access to contraceptives is much less promising.
Considering those factors and other factors, we came to the conclusion that the most promising countries to research deeper are those characterized by:
For example, according to FAO’s data, Bangladesh seems to be one of the most promising countries. It accounts for 3.10% of the global production of animals, much more than the USA or any European country, where most of the animal advocacy organizations now operate. Additionally, Bangladesh seems to be progressive in its food policy. For example, Bangladesh was the first country to be approved for the commercial release of GMO crops. Approval was passed from the ministries of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and Agriculture (MoA). This suggests that those ministries might be progressive also on issues related to other aspects of agriculture.
Based on research into the above criteria, we’ve chosen 22 countries for a deeper dive to determine where we should start a charity. We researched each country individually and gave them a score on nine criteria:
Based on this system, we think that:
Although this list offers us a good overview of how promising a given country is, it is not the ultimate information you should base your decision on. It should be modified if you are planning to use a specific approach or an ask. For example, India might score above average if you take into account all the factors, but the regulation of NGOs seems particularly limiting. If you are planning to improve management of dissolved oxygen levels through governmental regulation, then India will be a particularly bad country because of relatively small fish production and the hostile stand on non-profit organizations. Comparatively, Taiwan might only be 0.2 SD better than India, but when we take into account their position on international NGOs, and more conducive regulations when it comes to policy-making combined with high fish production, it makes Taiwan much more promising. This research should be used as a starting point, not as an ultimate answer.
Our full spreadsheet, with all the ratings, as well as links to the 1-5-page summary reports, gives specific descriptions as to why certain countries received certain ratings. Each full report is a summary page with key information and is followed by a section of rough notes (generally in the 10-20 page range). Each report was time capped at five hours, so they are limited in both scope and depth. Therefore, we are keen to get more information on any of these areas that could change the prioritization.
For some approaches, such as corporate governmental outreach, the impact of asks that might be implemented could be increased by expanding those new policies to a cooperating country, so we also grouped them based on the trading agreement between countries to provide additional input that will inform our decision and took an average score for the group.
Many of these countries have a relatively limited animal charity presence and a small chance of developing it, which gives us more confidence there is room for additional counterfactual impact-focused charities to be founded. When considering the most important charities to found, we expect many, although not all of them, will be best founded in priority countries. We also expect some of these countries to change over time. For example, if a large charity was founded in Vietnam, that would change how promising the country is for new charities to be founded in the country and thus lower its priority.
Many thanks for Vicky Cox who contributed greatly to this research as a part of her internship at Charity Entrepreneurship by researching all the information needed to rate the countries on all criteria.
In recent years, there has been an observable shift in the animal advocacy movement towards institutional change. Among other institutional strategies, corporate outreach seems widely used to achieve positive change for animals. Corporate outreach involves designated campaigns aiming to influence the behaviour of corporations.
This report focuses on estimating the impact of corporate outreach with the aim to assess the potential impact of a new charity which may be started to execute corporate outreach. Because of the very broad definition of corporate outreach, this report considers 13 sub-approaches in total. These include facilitating international expansion of existing animal organizations, e.g. The Humane League to Asia and Latin America; ensuring the following-through of existing corporate campaign pledges; and starting a new organization in a priority country advocating for a different issue than the existing confinement-based asks; etc.
We expect that corporate outreach is one of the most cost-effective interventions for animals, if paired with a high impact ask and executed correctly in a promising country. In line with our priority animal, priority ask, and priority country research, we expect the most promising charity that could be founded in this space is one focused on corporate campaigns for fish water quality in a country with a high fish population but with a relatively small corporate campaign presence, such as Taiwan.
Charity Entrepreneurship is a high-impact career, but fits a limited number of people. In the past, we have written about personality traits that are essential, but many people have asked us for more details and examples of people who are a good fit for charity entrepreneurship. Our most recent batch of incubatees can provide an example of people who are our best guesses at potentially impactful entrepreneurs. Charity Entrepreneurship’s incubation program received over 150 applications, and we are very grateful for the large number of applicants. We were pleasantly surprised by how many skilled and talented individuals have considered non-profit entrepreneurship as their high-impact career. In the end, we had to make some hard decisions to pick those who, in our view, have the highest potential to start new effective charities this year. In the multi-round recruitment process that consisted of two interviews and two test tasks, we carefully selected 13 participants. Now, with the program running, we’re asking them why they decided to join our incubation program.
BIO: Tom is a recent Philosophy graduate from the University of Southampton. Through philosophy, Tom found himself caught up in difficult ethical questions. As he spent more time considering them, he became more passionate about making the world a better place. This lead him to co-found the Southampton Effective Altruism Society with a few friends. Now, Tom is hoping to use his career to improve the world.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: Starting a charity always seemed like too daunting a task for me to take seriously as a step in my early career. However, the CE program removed these anxieties, acting as a guide to smooth off the learning curve. Simply put, starting a charity now seems like one of the best ways for me to help make the world a better place.
BIO: George recently graduated from Southampton with a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. At university, he helped to co-found the Southampton Effective Altruism Society and assisted in running the Vegetarian and Vegan Society. His involvement with these societies and his study of philosophy have greatly influenced his career decisions. George now hopes to be able to apply some of the lessons he has learned to actually improve the world.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: I got excited about CE at EA Global in 2018. Before this, I had never really considered entrepreneurship as a career path, as I had the impression that there were already enough charities. However, I now think that charity entrepreneurship can be an excellent career path for improving the world if you have the right fit. CE’s incubation program is a way to fast-track the acquisition of skills and lessons necessary to successfully found a charity. Moreover, it allows those who may not have considered charity entrepreneurship, or would have only attempted charity entrepreneurship as a career path much later, to start out on this high-impact path much sooner.
BIO: Joel Burke is a serial entrepreneur who founded his first business at 18 years of age. After university, Joel became CMO of a startup, moved to Silicon Valley, and began working with StartX, the Stanford accelerator. Joel eventually made his way to venture capital and became an early employee at Gigster (YC/Andreessen backed co) and launchcircle (Rocket Internet). He then went on to lead the Business Development team for e-Residency, a division of the government of the Republic of Estonia. Joel is now focused on doing the most good possible via charity entrepreneurship.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: I’ve known I wanted to do a lot of good for the world for most of my life, but until I found EA I didn’t have a great methodology for measuring or understanding how to do that. After getting involved in the movement, I took the Giving What We Can Pledge and became an active community member. While working for the government of Estonia and deciding on my next steps in my career, I was looking at where I could contribute the most. Having been an entrepreneur for much of my career, founding a highly effective charity seemed like a logical choice that fit with both my skill sets and my passions.
BIO: Fiona recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with a first-class bachelor’s degree in Natural Sciences and Management. During her time at university, she learned about 80,000 Hours and Effective Altruism, which persuaded her to change career plans from academic research to something where she aims to have more impact. Fiona has been interested in global health for several years. During her university vacations, she has completed an internship at the World Health Organisation in Geneva; spent two months in Tanzania on a student-led global health project with Cambridge Development Initiative and completed a lab research placement in Cambridge.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: I hope to have a career with a major positive impact on the world, and I applied for the incubation program because I believe it can help me achieve this. In the short term, I believe that charity entrepreneurship has the potential to achieve significant direct impact and feel that I am relatively well-placed to test this, particularly following the incubation program. It also provides a great opportunity at the beginning of my career to test out my fit for various job roles, which will help me to maximise my impact in the long term.
BIO: Vicky is a recent Maths with Actuarial Science graduate from the University of Southampton. She became an effective altruist 3 years ago after reading Peter Singer’s ‘The Life You Can Save’. Around the same time she became an effective altruist, she also went vegan, so factory farming was the obvious cause area for her. So far, her efforts to make the world a better place have included signing the Giving What We Can Pledge, co-founding Southampton Effective Altruism Society, and interning for Charity Entrepreneurship by helping with their priority country research.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: I was excited by the unique opportunity to start a cost-effective, impact-driven charity. On top of this, starting a charity is a very salient career path for doing good, with the counterfactual being that the charity wouldn't exist without me. This is very appealing, as I have always wanted to do the most good with my career.
BIO: Clare has a PhD in geophysics from the University of Cambridge and has published several papers in international peer-reviewed scientific journals. She has been involved with Effective Altruism in Cambridge since 2015 - first as Co-President of Giving What We Can: Cambridge, then by continuing to work with the committee on outreach and strategy. Her primary focus is on global poverty - in 2018 she was an intern at the charity Development Media International, where she assisted with research on the effects of radio and television campaigns on global health.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program:
Charity Entrepreneurship’s research suggests that there are many high-impact, neglected interventions within the cause areas of global poverty and animal welfare. I am excited at the prospect of building a charity based on this research with an emphasis on careful monitoring and evaluation. Having always worked in an academic setting, I am looking forward to learning a wide-range of new skills supported by the mentorship of the Charity Entrepreneurship team.
BIO: Before joining the Charity Entrepreneurship incubation program, Ishaan was doing research in the biological and social sciences with a focus on neuroscience and psychology.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: There are so many amazingly talented people in Effective Altruism who are ready to make a difference. It's time to build the organizational capacity to direct all this underutilized talent in high impact ways. Charity Entrepreneurship has a strong research team, led by individuals with a track record of success. I think there is good reason to believe that many of the suggested interventions are likely to be high-impact opportunities that warrant our funding and talent.
BIO: Haven recently graduated from Oberlin College, where he majored in Philosophy and Computer Science, and founded a local Effective Altruism chapter. He has also been involved in the animal movement for several years, during which time he was president of Oberlin Animal Rights. His research experience includes work in data science at the University of Southern California as well as modeling expected impact at Mercy for Animals. Outside of work and activism, Haven is quite fond of sipping drinks with friends and playing table tennis.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: I’m doing the Charity Entrepreneurship incubation program for two reasons. First, it seems like the most high-impact thing I can do for the world. If I succeed, I’ll have improved the lives of thousands, perhaps even millions, of individuals. If I fail, I’ll surely have learned a lot. Second, and less high-mindedly, building a new charity from the ground up sounds like a whole lot of fun.
BIO: Lauren’s background is in data analysis, research, and consultancy. Before the program Lauren primarily advised corporate companies on how to use data for strategic prioritisation and direction, and for designing bespoke projects. She studied Philosophy and History in a combined Arts degree at Liverpool University. Although she studied Peter Singer back in high school, she only became aware of Effective Altruism in 2016, and it heavily resonated with her core beliefs. Since discovering EA, Lauren has spent the last two years volunteering with a variety of effective animal advocacy organisations such as The Humane League and The Good Food Institute alongside her corporate job.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: There is a lot left to do in the animal welfare space, and it is still relatively neglected in relation to its scale of suffering and the number of charities elsewhere. As Charity Entrepreneurship’s focus this year is largely on animal interventions, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to take my corporate experience and analytical skills and apply them to a charity working directly on my passion.
BIO: Caleb is a recent engineering graduate. He specialised in robotic systems and has worked in translational and theoretical neuroscience labs. Caleb has started three social enterprises, one of which won the Ford UK Innovation Challenge. In his free time, he enjoys losing Badminton matches and coding things that sporadically work.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: While I worked on a sanitation project in Tanzania in my first year of university, I became increasingly unsure of how great an impact we were having. I was really excited to learn about Charity Entrepreneurship and their focus on measuring impact to ensure that we can help the most people in the most meaningful way. Charity Entrepreneurship’s incubation program offered me the chance to work with smart, inspiring, and ambitiously altruistic individuals, and the excitement of building organisations designed to have a high impact from the ground up.
BIO: Michael Plant is a final year PhD student in moral philosophy at the University of Oxford. As a result of his research, he decided to set up the Happier Lives Institute, a new EA organisation which looks for the most effective ways to make others happier. Michael is Peter Singer’s Research Assistant and previously founded Hippo, a happiness tracking app start-up.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: I wanted to start a high-impact organisation, but realised there are lots of things I know I don't know: strategic planning, budgeting, management, etc. On top of this, I expect there are many gaps in my knowledge that I don't even know I should be trying to fill. I joined the CE programme in order to get a crash course across the range of topics I will need to understand to build a successful organisation.
BIO: Michael is Program Manager at the Local Effective Altruism Network, a research and movement building organisation linking the 300+ Effective Altruism chapters around the world. He is Chairman and President of the Polish Foundation for Effective Altruism and a technologist with 6+ years of experience at Goldman Sachs, UBS, and others. His other interests include data storytelling and global health policy advocacy. He graduated in Philosophy.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: After several years of exploring the spaces surrounding effective altruism, I aim to put my skills to use where they stand a good chance of being needed the most. Charity Entrepreneurship narrowed down the possibilities and helps me navigate the remaining part.
BIO: Varsha has worked for more than 15 years in global poverty at global institutions including the World Bank and Open Society Foundation. Varsha has a Master’s degree in Development Management from London School of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Urban Planning from School of Planning and Architecture in India. In her spare time, Varsha likes to run and read non-fiction.
Why I chose to join the CE incubation program: Over the last year, I have been advising charities on strategy and program management. I was looking to start a global poverty charity when I came across EA last year. I had the pleasure of meeting Joey, the CE founder. CE Incubation program provides the research, structure, and support to increase the odds of my charity being impactful.
Decision-making on which charities to establish involves certain complex processes. Part of this analysis is looking at the effectiveness of different approaches. Currently at Charity Entrepreneurship, I am analysing how promising the corporate outreach campaigns are in implementing the most promising asks. Coming from a cluster approach perspective, I analyse multiple groups of evidence, one of which is historical case studies. This post explains an analysis about the counterfactual impact of cage-free corporate campaigns in the US. We use this case as one of thirty-five pieces of evidence we took into account in evaluating how promising the launch of new corporate outreach campaigns would be. This particular piece has limited weight in the decision-making process, so please do not interpret this in separation from the other evidence we are going to present in the following posts, which are:
In this piece of research, Charity Entrepreneurship identified and modelled crucial factors that could have contributed to the current percentage of cage-free eggs: historical trend, changes in the price gap between cage-free and caged eggs, the effects of consumer willingness to pay for higher welfare, and the price elasticity of demand. In another scenario, the effect of avian flu was also accounted for. We concluded that in 2017-2018, the above factors explained only ~6% of cage-free eggs produced, which leaves 10.4% of cage-free eggs that can be explained by corporate outreach (or other known and unknown factors, e.g. animal advocacy for reducing the consumption of cage eggs). In 2015, when the avian flu outbreak occurred, analysis left only 0.6% of cage-free eggs unexplained, which might suggest that there might have been a significant factor in the increase in cage-free eggs. Below, I elaborate on all factors researched and analyzed by me and CE’s research intern Vicky Cox, who played a crucial role in this research.
All factors taken into account:
The first perspective we took into account is whether the observed 13% change in the percentage of cage-free in the US between 2005 and 2018 matched the percentage of eggs that were reportedly affected by the companies that pledged to switch to cage-free eggs.
Using information from the corporate commitment tracker (unpublished) and EggTrack’s report, we should see ~9% (8.67%) difference in the fraction of cage-free eggs between 2005 and 2018. So we could say that, at best, 9% of the egg market share could be explained by commitments made by companies. There are two problems with those number, however:
For some of the companies on EggTrack, progress was given in a breakdown of shell egg progress and liquid/ingredient progress. We decided to weight these based on available information. Weighting of shell to liquid eggs in observed percentages:
However, we do not have statistics for how many shell and liquid eggs each company uses each year. So, ultimately, we don’t have an obvious weighting. Since Centerplate is a foodservice like Compass Group, Sodexo and Aramark, we assumed that their usage of shell and liquid eggs is similar. Therefore, we used the following weighting (taking the average of the above 3 food services): 0.18(100) = 18
Starbucks, Panera Bread and Ruby Tuesday are all restaurants. We assume that they will use more shell eggs than liquid eggs. We arbitrarily weight this as: two-thirds shell, one-third liquid.
As a result, we concluded that at least 9% and maximally 13% of cage-free eggs could have been influenced by the corporations’ behaviour.
Another consideration we took into account is the fact that increases in the relative share of cage-free eggs might just be a matter of a historical trend and that the same increase would have be seen in the absence of corporate outreach campaigns. To estimate what would have been the proportion of cage-free eggs in 2016/17/18, we extrapolated from the historical trend.
In our analysis, we used extrapolation from data up to 2013, because that was the year that the first cage-free campaign started. Between the expected percentage of cage-free eggs that could be attributed to historical trend and the actual percentage of cage-free eggs, there is a 5.7% difference in 2016, 9.3% difference in 2017, and 10.1% difference in 2018. This is an 8.4% difference on average that cannot be explained by historical trends.
Avian Flu (taken into account only for analysis for 2015)
As pointed out by Šimčikas, in the year 2005 avian flu could have potentially pushed consumers into buying cage-free eggs instead of cage eggs by causing the price gap between generic eggs and speciality, cage-free eggs to close down quite dramatically. According to the report from the Economic Research Service, between December 2014 and June 2015, more than 50 million chickens (and turkeys) in the United States died of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) or were destroyed to stop the spread of the disease. These birds accounted for ~12% of the U.S. layer population - this could explain the initial spike in the percentage of cage-free eggs relative to caged-eggs that was observed in 2015. It is also possible that the decrease in cage-eggs created an illusion of increase in cage-free egg consumption. Layers accounted for a large majority of the lost birds. Over the May-December period in 2015, the benchmark egg price was 61 percent above that from a year earlier, while production declined only about 10 percent. Production was low despite at least 21 million layers being added to the national flock between June 1, 2015, and January 1, 2016, reflecting the relatively low layer productivity that delayed the recovery. However, by March 1, 2016, the flock expanded by another 9 million birds and lay rates improved, resulting in more or less normalised levels of production. After the outbreak, record-high egg prices were the most notable market change, and price increases far surpassed production losses on a relative basis. Here, “normal levels of production” pertains to the production of cage-eggs. This is a point for the greater impact of the corporate campaigns, because a higher observable percentage of cage-free eggs in the following years is not a result of a decrease in cage eggs.
The expanded role of cage-free products may have also altered the supply and demand for eggs, and resulted in additional price volatility. While data on cage-free layers in 2016 was limited, between September 2015 and September 2016 over half of the estimated net increase in the national flock was due to more cage-free layers. Eggs are among the most price inelastic foods - their price elasticity is estimated to be 0.27 where a 95% confidence interval is given by (0.08, 0.45) (source). Assuming that this price elasticity holds, an increase of 61% in the price of eggs would have seen a 16.2% (4.88, 27.45) reduction in the quantity of caged-eggs consumed. If we assume that all of this reduction is made up of purchasing cage-free eggs instead, then cage-free eggs would see a 16.2% increase in demand.
Consumer Willingness to Pay
To simulate consumer behaviour and influence over the percentage of cage-free eggs produced, we used studies on consumer willingness to pay for cage-free eggs. In a study on the market potential for cage free eggs by the Food Marketing Institute, Animal Agriculture Alliance, and the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, it was found that when provided no additional information, half of consumers are willing to pay no more than a $0.30/dozen premium for cage free eggs. The mean premium is $1.16/dozen, suggesting a small fraction of consumers are willing to pay sizeable amounts for the cage free label. Almost 60% of consumers have a willingness to pay for cage free less than $0.40/dozen, but 33% have a value greater than $1.00/dozen.
The results suggest there is potential for the market-share for cage free eggs to rise above the current state even at premiums as high as $1.00/dozen. However, even at much more modest price premiums, the potential for cage free eggs to attain the majority market share is unlikely, particularly if conventional egg sellers advertise other desirable attributes. When ranking the importance of factors that influence the purchase of eggs, price came first with 43% relative importance, while animal welfare came fifth behind safety, taste, and nutrition, with 8% relative importance.
The above study seems to be the most reputable as it has the most respondents (>2,000) and it is used as the main source for nearly all other articles and reports on consumer willingness to pay. Some other reports have roughly the same numbers, but possess much less respondents. For example, this report with 327 respondents saw results that 27% of respondents would be willing to pay a premium of $0.98 for cage-free. The respondents for this survey were college students, who would perhaps be more willing than the older generation to pay more for animal welfare, as younger people tend to care more about animal welfare. On the other hand, they might have a less stable financial situation and be averse to spending more.
Based on these studies, we concluded that ~30% of consumers were willing to pay premium on cage-free eggs in 2007 and 32% were willing to do so in 2018. We concluded that this 2% increase in cage-free eggs’ consumption resulted from consumers’ choices that would, overall, be partially independent from corporate campaigning.
Refraining from purchasing eggs
It was observed that between 2014 and 2015, the per capita egg consumption dropped by ~4% (4.04) (source). That brought up another inquiry of interest: how might the complete removal of conventional eggs affect egg buying behavior? To explore this issue, it is now assumed that consumers have a choice between a conventional egg option (priced at $0.99/dozen), cage free eggs (priced at $1.79/dozen), and they also have the option to choose “none” and refrain from buying eggs altogether. As shown in the left panel of figure 9, under these assumptions, 59% are projected to choose conventional, 36% cage free, and 4% “none.” The right-hand panel of figure 9 shows the projections of what would happen were the lower-priced conventional option removed from the market. If this were to occur, the models predict the share of consumers who would refrain from buying eggs would increase from 4% to 17% (source, page 28). In case of such an increase in prices, 4% of consumers might refrain from purchasing eggs.
Changes in prices of eggs caused by the avian flu outbreak
Price of caged eggs before and after the avian flu
Preliminary research pointed out some inconsistencies, so we analysed multiple sources to estimate the increase in prices. The Report from the Economic Research Service shows a 61% increase in prices. When we look at the estimates, the 61% increase stated in the report is for consumer-grade eggs (fresh eggs on store shelves), but not for processing-grade eggs that are used by restaurants and others. Attempting to read prices off Figure 1, we see that the price of eggs in May 2014 is US$1.05 and the price of eggs in May 2015 is US$1.7. Taking these prices as accurate, this is ~61% (61.9) increase. Making the price of eggs in May 2015 1.69 instead of 1.7 makes the price increase 60.95%, even closer to 61%.
Looking at the benchmark price on all available USDA reports from May - December 2014 and taking an average, and looking at the benchmark price on all available USDA reports from May - December 2015, we have a 63.6% price increase.
The USDA, in a monthly supply and demand report, increased its forecast for the price of Grade A large eggs in New York in 2015 to $1.60 to $1.66 per dozen. That is up from its May estimate of $1.30 to $1.36, and tops last year’s average price of about $1.42, which was a record high, according to USDA data. In the fourth quarter of 2015, eggs will average $1.73 to $1.87 per dozen, up from about $1.63 a year earlier, the USDA said. Last month, the agency predicted a dozen eggs would cost $1.33 to $1.45 in the fourth quarter.
Summarising these three, we have:
Absolute price of cage-free eggs during the 2014-15 period
We didn’t manage to find prices of eggs in 2014 and 2015, therefore used two separate methods, both of them have some limitations, so we think this part is especially prone to error. However, It doesn’t affect the main conclusions.
In 2015, it was found that, on average, cage-free eggs were 2.3 times more expensive than caged eggs (source).
Using these values to give us a CI we get:
2014 price: $2.94 (2.53, 3.36)
2015 price: $4.78 (4.07, 5.50)
Wholesale - the term seems to be synonymous with free-range - egg prices were in the $1.25 per dozen range in the fall of 2014, but by August of 2015 they had risen to $2.60 per dozen (source). The wholesale price of a dozen eggs fluctuated between $1 and $1.77 across the US in 2014, according to government statistics. Using Guesstimate, the average of this range is $1.40. The wholesale price of a dozen eggs in 2014 was $1.40 (source). Using the graph in this report, the price of wholesale eggs was ~$1.40 in 2014 and ~$1.80 in 2015.
Using these values to give us a CI we get:
2014 price: $1.36 (1.29, 1.43)
2015 price: $2.20 (1.42, 2.98)
Price of caged and cage-free eggs when avian flu stopped affecting prices
It seems that avian flu stopped affecting the price of eggs in 2016. The largest gap in the prices of caged and cage-free eggs was in 2017. However, evidence suggests that the price gap closed in 2018. Since it seems that avian flu stopped affecting the prices in 2016, and there are no obvious outside factors that could explain the price gap closing in 2018, we assume that this might be the result of corporate campaigns.
In 2016, due to an oversupply, the average selling price for cage eggs was down 64.9% (compared to 2015 where prices increased due to avian flu). Although cage-free egg prices also fell, they were only down by 13.2% (compared to 2015 prices) (source). A fall in cage egg prices of 49.8% can be seen on Statista where the price of a dozen eggs was $2.75 in 2015 and $1.38 in 2016. As of May 6, 2016, the USDA National Retail Report reported that the advertised prices for shell eggs was $1.07 a dozen for white large USDA Grade A eggs while “cage-free” large white eggs sold at $2.49. This is a premium of $1.42.
A dozen conventional eggs in March 2017 cost an average of $1.05. This was reported to be ‘less than half’ as expensive as a dozen cage-free eggs, according to price data from the USDA (reported by CNBC, they weren’t more specific). Using data from Bloomberg below, we can estimate that whilst a dozen caged eggs cost $1.05, a dozen cage-free eggs were at $2.85 (this is a premium of $1.80).
According to USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service data, while the premium in 2018 is lower than it was in 2017, it is still a $1.28 premium. This suggests that perhaps the gap in prices is closing again (“while the premium is lower than last year”). This idea is also backed up in an article from Bloomberg which states that the price differential between cage eggs and cage free eggs is decreasing. Reasons for this gap closing seem as simple as many corporations having made progress on their cage-free commitments, which results in the increase in supply that reduces cage-free eggs’ premium over regular eggs.
Since the biggest price gap was seen in 2017, we will model prices off this year and compare them to the prices in 2018 when the price gap began to close. Using the same study as previously on the market potential for cage free eggs by the Food Marketing Institute, Animal Agriculture Alliance, and the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, it was found that ~30% of consumers would be willing to pay the premium of $1.80 (based off the graph on page 24/50). When the price gap started decreasing in 2018, the premium fell to $1.28, and at this price ~32% of consumers were willing to pay the premium. Since it seems as if avian flu had stopped affecting prices by 2017-2018, it seems as if this 2% increase in the number of consumers willing to pay for cage-free eggs is a result of corporate campaigns increasing the supply of cage-free eggs (making the premium smaller).
Analysis of factors between 2017-2018
Based on the research above, we modelled all factors in Guesstimate, concluding that these factors explain only 6% out of 16% of all cage-free eggs, which leaves 10.4% to be explained by other factors, i.a. impact of corporate campaigns. However, we didn’t take into account other factors that might explain the increase, e.g. individual outreach or, more importantly, political change, particularly California’s Proposition 2 that passed in 2008 as a result of HSUS’s work. The Proposition, among other things, prohibits the confinement of hens in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, or fully extend their limbs, therefore effectively banning the usage of battery cages. Proposition 2 is credited as preparing the ground for the campaigns that followed with dozens of cage-free commitments from most companies in the US. Animal Charity Evaluators claims that Proposition 2 was the main factor that contributed to the success of the campaign against McDonald’s, which pledged policy change in 2015, preceding a series of cage-free commitments from other companies. Given that, ~10% is the upper confidence interval for the counterfactual impact of all of the campaigns in the US. To narrow down the confidence interval we used research by Founders Pledge on i.e. corporate outreach campaigns. They estimated that every cage-free campaign in the US that THL runs speeds up the commitment by 1-1.5 years on average. Using the data from Egg Track we estimated that the average percentage of eggs affected in 2017-18 is ~0.015%. Therefore, the total percentage of eggs affected by THL by speeding up every cage-free campaign is ~0.015% to ~0.023%. According to ChickenWatch, there were 76 commitments taken in 2017 and 35 in 2018, giving us 111 in total. Therefore, the total effect of THL between 2017-18 is ~1.71% to ~2.56%, which we are going to use as a lower band of the confidence interval, giving us ~2.1- ~10% of the counterfactual impact of corporate campaigns.
Analysis of factors during the period affected by the avian flu
Different results can be observed from our similar analysis of the period affected by the avian flu. Here, the percentage of cage-free eggs unexplained by all the factors taken into account in the previous analysis and the impact of the avian flu is only 0.6%. That might provide the argument for the hypothesis that the disease outbreak made the transition easier by closing the price gap between eggs from different housing systems and forcing some producers to partly switch to cage-free systems, which offered greater food safety. Given how surprising the result was for us, we conducted sensitivity analysis and double-checked the factors that were the sources of the greatest uncertainty in the final outcome. We listed potential flaws with those estimates:
The presence of all analyzed factors, if no other factors play a role, would result in 6% of all eggs in the US being cage-free. However, we can observe that ~16% of eggs produced in the US are cage-free eggs, which means that the effects of other factors result in an additional 10.4% of cage-free eggs. This could be explained by corporate outreach (or other known and unknown factors, e.g. change in legislation that increased the probability of the success of the campaigns). Therefore, we attribute the counterfactual impact of corporate campaigns to be between 2.1-10% of eggs being switched to cage-free. We are not going to use this number in the cost-effectiveness analysis separately from other factors. We plan on publishing an analysis of expected success of launching new corporate campaign, and this piece is only a supplementary element to the bigger research on corporate outreach.
Although we will not do this ourselves, we would love to see a similar analysis for a different country, and we suggest the UK given the availability of data. If anyone is interested in doing so, we would love to send you any data we might have to help get you started. We gathered data on the relative share and number of cage free-cage eggs in the UK and it can be found here.
The following report is a part of ongoing research by Charity Entrepreneurship looking into corporate outreach as a potential approach used to implement asks.
You can download the full report here: