According to the United Egg Producers poultry organization, almost 95 percent of chickens are raised in an industrial setting. These hens are confined in small cages, under conditions of close surveillance, many of them with more than 100,000 birds in one place. If these studies surprise you, chances are that the dozen organic eggs that you usually buy in the supermarket come from chickens that live in conditions similar to those in a factory.
The United States is the largest supplier of eggs and poultry in the world, with nearly 100 billion eggs produced each year [source: USDA]. This gives people a wide selection to choose from, but for many conscientious consumers, picking up eggs at the grocery store is more than just opening the box and checking for cracks. While price and condition are always important, the health and well-being of egg-laying hens have become an important consideration for many egg lovers.
There are some compelling reasons to choose free-range eggs over industrial cage-raised eggs, and not just for welfare concerns. Free-range egg nutrition levels are also significantly better. Here’s a breakdown of why it’s worth turning down caged chicken eggs and choosing organic eggs to feed your family.
Hens raised for the egg industry
Banned in the European Union since 2013, caging chickens for mass egg production was considered an exciting innovation in the egg industry. Egg production, which used to be a small-scale agricultural operation, became an efficient factory machine, providing low-cost eggs to a global market. But who paid the price for all those cheap eggs? Unfortunately, it was the chickens.
Consumers, increasingly curious, began to investigate the origin of this delicious and nutritious food, and they could no longer ignore the egg industry. The conditions in which chickens are raised have been “condemned by every animal protection group in the world,” according to the Huffington Post. There are videos that are strong enough to make a person vegan. The two-year shelf life of a typical hen caged in these factories is not at all pleasant, in addition to being stacked in a cage filled with up to ten chickens; Unable to walk or spread their wings, they live with atrophied muscles and broken bones, housed with cage mates already dead from dehydration.
These chickens will not have the opportunity to hatch, forage, or roam freely in the field (all a hen’s primary instincts), caged chickens lead sad lives.
Difference between industrial and organic eggs
With so many different egg labels, such as “organic” and “industrial,” it can be a bit confusing as to which ones taste best and which ones are healthier.
1. Industrial Eggs
The raising of hens in the egg industry has more to do with the economic benefit than with the welfare of the hens. Don’t be fooled by smart marketing phrases on labels. An egg box with a picture of a pretty chicken frolicking in a field of green grass with the wording, “fresh eggs” is misleading, and translates to “caged hens with a 2-year shelf life stacked without being able to move or lift their at”.
Chickens are raised in factories where they are huddled in a very confined area, trampling each other every day. Some are kept in individual cages with no room to move. It may never have crossed your mind, but this is a potential breeding condition for bacteria and disease!
They put antibiotics in your system, which means that some of these antibiotics can end up in your eggs. Hormones can also be given to increase egg production. It makes sense from a profit perspective, as more eggs laid equals more profit.
2. Farm and organic eggs
If price is not a major issue for you, opt for free-range eggs over factory eggs. Free-range chickens can roam freely and perform many of their natural behaviors, such as foraging and hatching. They also have platforms that they can perch on to lay their eggs.
Organic eggs can come from free-range chickens. To qualify for USDA organic certification, grains and other foods must be grown on land that has been free of fertilizers or pesticides for a minimum of three years. The Bureau of Animal Industry of the Philippines has also adopted this system and policies. Also, organic eggs should come from chickens given antibiotics only in case of infection – commercial chickens, on the other hand, are routinely given antibiotics. Hormones or other drugs cannot be used in the production of organic eggs.
- How long do chickens live?
- 10 rarest chicken breeds in the world
- 10 best fruits to feed your chickens
- Common chicken diseases and how to treat them
- Natural ways to make your hens lay more eggs