Our new colleague, Russ Roberts, author of the economic romance (really!), An Invisible Heart, gave a talk on economic growth where he briefly mentioned the staggering improvements in egg production over the past century. Here are some facts.
Last year the United States produced 86.7 billion eggs.
An early 20th century hen – or a third world hen today – laid perhaps an egg or two a week. Today’s hens lay approximately 5 eggs a week.
Prior to World War II a hen-house might hold 400 hens. Today, a typical hen-house, contains 150,000 hens.
Today’s “hen-houses” are really high-tech factories. The eggs are collected automatically on conveyor belts, graded by robots according to external factors like shape, color, size and also internal factors like consistency and yolk size. See here for a pictorial power-point presentation of the process.
Most amazingly, did you know that from the time it leaves the hen to the time it reaches your table an egg is unlikely to have been touched by human hands!
Addendum: I do not claim that capitalism is good for the chickens.