Why Eggs Should Be Bought Cage-Free

According to the Humane Society of the U.S., on average, caged hens are afforded only 67 square inches of cage space per chicken.  The Humane Society points out that equates to less than a single sheet of letter-sized paper on which a hen must live her entire life.  From reading about this and watching movies such as Food Inc., it is clear that the chicken business is one of the worst, most abusive constituents of the meat industry.

Confined within such a small space, hens aren’t able to walk more than a couple steps, barely given enough room to even spread their wings.  Many of the chickens never get to see the sunlight, cooped up within windowless warehouses until they die.  Often they are forced to live within piles of their own feces, not only creating unfavorable living conditions and posing potential health risks for the chickens, but also presenting a risk for humans who consume them.  According to the Center for Food Safety and the Consumer Federation of America, battery-cage eggs pose up to a 25% greater risk of salmonella poisoning than cage-free farms.

According to a 2007 New York Times article, only 5% of chickens within the U.S. are cage-free.  That means the other 95% are forced to live their lives inside wired cages, restricted not only from their natural habitat but also from carrying out their natural animalistic behaviors.  Their normal acts of dustbathing, nesting, and perching are all prohibited.

Scientist and Nobel Prize winner Dr. Konrad Lorenz says this: “The worst torture to which a battery hen is exposed is the inability to retire somewhere for the laying act. For the person who knows something about animals it is truly heart-rending to watch how a chicken tries again and again to crawl beneath her fellow cagemates to search there in vain for cover.”

For all of these reasons and a list full of others I have not mentioned, one should make sure to buy cage-free eggs when choosing eggs at the grocery store.  While cage-free doesn’t entirely equate to cruelty-free, it does enhance chickens’ conditions a considerable amount.

Cage-free environments allow hens to walk, stretch out, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests, all acts of which nature intended on allowing the chicken to do.  Certified cage-free egg producers are also required to provide perching and dust-bathing areas for the chickens.

Studies have also shown that cage-free eggs are superior in nutrition than battery-cage eggs.  A 2007 study showed that eggs from cage-free hens had 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene than batter-free eggs.

Cage-free eggs will cost you a few extra since, but the price is worth it.  We need to put a stop to treating chickens as though they were objects rather than living, breathing beings put on Earth purely for our consumption and money-making abilities.  Look for the American Humane Certified label when choosing eggs at the store.  For a list of certified cage-free egg producers, click here.

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    June 8, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I always buy cage-free eggs. I’ve done so for years, but after watching Food, Inc. I was really convinced it was the best way to go. I’d love to try farm-fresh eggs, though. As the farmers markets start, I’m hoping to get some. I hear they’re amazing and a million times better than supermarket eggs, even cage-free ones.

  • Reply
    Lindsay
    June 8, 2010 at 9:49 am

    We always buy cage free. I don’t even remember when we started buying them, but it’s been a long time now.

  • Reply
    Jenna@ Healthy. Happy. Well.
    June 8, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Seriously! This is so important! The only way we can change unfair farming practices is by supporting the farms who are doing it right. Free range is the ultimate ethical purchase to make if you are in fact eating eggs. Great post!

  • Reply
    sophia
    June 8, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I don’t really buy cage-free eggs…Price is always a huge factor for me. But I’m starting to realize that some things just deserve a bit of spending. Cheap is not all cheap!

  • Reply
    Andrea@WellnessNotes
    June 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Growing up, my mom always bought eggs from a local farm (we were the strange family 35 years ago!). I have pretty much always bought cage free eggs and try to buy local farm fresh eggs whenever I can.

  • Reply
    Mari
    June 8, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    When I saw Food Inc and saw how most of the chickens are kept it made me SO SAD and also slightly nauseous…I should check my egg whites and see where they are coming from.

  • Reply
    Simply Life
    June 8, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    we just changed the type of eggs we buy this year – what a difference it makes!

  • Reply
    theexperfectionist
    June 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Great post! I always try to buy cage free. I am convinced they taste better too. I will be so glad when my mom’s chickens are ready to lay eggs so I can get them from her. 🙂

  • Reply
    The Candid RD
    June 9, 2010 at 6:10 am

    Great post. I always buy cage-free, if I can. Food Inc. really taught me a lot, and reading this post was another eye-opener. A stressed hen = bad eggs anyway! I think cage-free should be a requirement everywhere.

  • Reply
    Heather
    June 9, 2010 at 6:15 am

    We have been buying cage free eggs since we saw Food Inc – this is great information!

  • Reply
    Michael Prejean
    June 9, 2010 at 6:50 am

    And I can’t even tell the difference:

    “Free-Range” Hen

    • Debeaked with a hot bloody blade at one day old with no anesthetic.

    • Force molted (intentionally starved to shock the body into another laying cycle).

    • Violently packed into a semi and trucked hundreds of miles to an agonizing slaughter when considered “spent” (unable to keep laying eggs at a fast enough pace).

    • Denied the opportunity to live a natural life in truly humane care.

    • All of her brothers (roosters) are brutally killed as baby chicks simply because they can’t lay eggs.

    Battery Cage Hen

    • Debeaked with a hot bloody blade at one day old with no anesthetic.

    • Force molted (intentionally starved to shock the body into another laying cycle).

    • Violently packed into a semi and trucked hundreds of miles to an agonizing slaughter when considered “spent” (unable to keep laying eggs at a fast enough pace).

    • Denied the opportunity to live a natural life in truly humane care.

    • All of her brothers (roosters) are brutally killed as baby chicks simply because they can’t lay eggs.

    Go Vegan Now!

    http://peacefulprairie.org/letter.html

  • Reply
    melindard
    June 9, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Now, the only negative to the free range chicken is when it winds up in your yard and your dog almost accidentally eats it. True story. I think my neighbor watches his chickens a little better now. They were seeking shelter in my yard in a covered area because it was raining outside. Gotta love Europe! My sister has a neighbor with chickens and they get their eggs from him.

  • Reply
    melindard
    June 9, 2010 at 11:30 am

    I just realized that I am logged in under my new wordpress account with my new site for something else. Anyway, this is Melinda from http://nutrfoodtrvl.blogspot.com. I am not sure what it used to come up with, but I guess the change may confuse some people.

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