In recent months and years many groups have been focusing on campaigns to turn consumers and companies away from battery eggs, asking that they replace them with “humane” eggs. Many consumers, appalled by the conditions chickens are forced to suffer at battery farms, have been attracted to (and/or totally confused by) labels such as “humane”, “cage-free”, “organic”, and more. But what exactly do all these labels mean, and do they actually help birds in a meaningful way?
“Cage-free” means only that hens are not kept in cages. “Free-range” is an unregulated term in egg-laying hens; it is only defined for birds used for meat. An “organic” hen must eat certified organic food and cannot be given antibiotics. Outdoor access is required but minimum standards are not specified for the size of these pens or how much time hens should have in them.
For a full explanation of all the different egg labels there are out there, visit http://www.eggindustry.com/cfi/faq/.
“Cage-free” hens suffer much like their caged brethren, subjected to crowding, poor air quality, physical and emotional stress. Hens cannot flap their wings, dust bathe, forage or socialize properly. They are deprived of fresh air, sunshine and grass under their feet. They are physically altered without anesthetic, routinely starved to induce another laying cycle and slaughtered at a fraction of their natural life span.
Hens do not think in terms of comparisons, they do not feel relieved that at least they are not caged. They merely know that they cannot fulfill their natural instinctual behaviors. Hens in egg production are pale imitations of the birds they could, and should, be.
One doesn’t remove the cruelty simply by removing the physical cage bars. See more here.
If you wish to be kind to hens, “humane” eggs are not the answer. Animals valued only as profit-creating production units will never be treated in a way we’d deem humane. Rather than chasing the dream of a cruelty-free egg, why not focus on removing eggs from your diet entirely? Ready to try? See our recent infographic, or this link for helpful hints on egg substitution in cooking and baking.