Unfortunately in our modern day society, we have lost touch with where our food actually comes from. Here’s an overview of where your eggs are coming from, and the harsh reality of mass production egg farms. Maybe you buy free range, or cage free, but do you really know what that means? I can pretty much assure you, if you buy grocery store shelf eggs you aren’t going to like the environment where they came from.
What You’re Paying For and What it all Means
Free Range: Evokes a positive image of chickens living outdoors with plenty of fresh air, sunshine and open space to roam in.
Cage Free: Conveys a similar impression of hens living free as nature intended.
Battery Farm: The name of small cages that almost all “laying” hens in the United States are kept in on mass production egg farms. These are the bargain priced grocery store shelf eggs. Usually white, but also brown.
Let’s take a better look at free range, below is a picture of what we all would like to believe it means. This in my opinion is a true free range chicken farm, and it is indeed lovely!
It is impossible, in such an atmosphere, to maintain health and cleanliness. The chicken’s excretions pile up, and the resulting ammonia fumes become so strong that they burn the birds eyes, and blindness results.
Below is an organic egg farm, the most expensive eggs on your store shelf, also considered free-range.
Next, let’s take a good look at cage-free, and remember that you are paying a premium price for both cage-free and free-range. Are you getting a better product for the money? Are the birds happier? I’ll let you decide…
Cage-free means that, while the hens are not squeezed into small wire cages, they never go outside. The hens are typically confined in dark, crowded buildings same as their battery-caged sisters. Chickens are designed to dig in the ground for food with their beaks and claws, when deprived of these interests, they can be driven to peck at each other. Chickens love sunlight, they sunbathe daily outdoors – something cage-free hens are denied. Cage-free hens are often de-beaked so they can do less damage to each other.
Producers of primarily the white eggs on your store shelf. These hens are often kept in horrible living conditions. They are kept in long rows of battery cages in windowless sheds. These cages have wire mesh floors through which feces can pass through, and a small gap in the front so they can feed. The floor is sloping to ensure the eggs roll to a trough. Up to ten hens may share an area of 2.33 ft sq. That is less than an 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper. These wire sloping floors prevent the hen from sitting, sometimes causing her feet to grow around the bars causing pain and discomfort. The hens can’t spread their wings or even lie down. They are prevented the basic natural instincts of perching, scratching, roosting, dust-bathing, and nesting quietly.
All battery farms have light timers, allowing the chickens only three to four hours of rest. Their lives are stressful and short. Many, most egg producers try to create the illusion of eternal spring by keeping the lights on a little longer each day to extend their laying cycle. Life is so hard in these automated layer houses that 25 percent of the hens have an average life span of eighteen-months.
There are about 300 million laying hens in the United States; of these, some 95 percent are kept in wire battery cages
What kind of life is this?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we quit eating eggs, or chickens for that matter. But I want to see better laws in place to protect them from suffering. All animals… all living things deserve that.
There are small scale chicken keepers everywhere, like me! Take the time to look for one where you live and buy from them. Craig’s list is a good place to start, I see fresh nest-run eggs for sale there all the time. You’ll be surprised to find they are cheaper too.
Ever thought of getting a few hens of your own? Check your city laws on keeping back yard chickens. Remember, you don’t need a rooster for hens to lay eggs. Hens are quiet and very easy to care for.