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.