Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A More Humane Egg

Evidence suggests that cage-free chickens have a lower risk of salmonella infection, and thankfully, the number of restaurants and retailers switching to cage-free eggs is growing.  Walmart, Costco, Safeway, Trader Joes’ and Whole Foods are all shifting to cage-free eggs. So are Royal Carribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines, Ben & Jerry’s, Burger King, Denny’s, Subway and Wendy’s, as well as dining halls at numerous colleges and universities.   Battery cages will be outlawed in California by 2015. 

It’s confusing, though, to sort through the claims on the cartons at the grocery store.  Here’s a rundown of some and what they mean.

USDA ORGANIC – hens cannot be caged and must have outdoor access, and be fed an allvegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides, however beak cutting is permitted.

AMERICAN HUMANE CERTIFIED – hens can be confined in cages or cage-free. Beak cutting is allowed.

ANIMAL WELFARE APPROVED – must be from flocks of no more than 500, and spend their adult lives outside.  No beak cutting.

CERTIFIED HUMANE – hens cannot be caged, but may still be kept inside.  Beak cutting allowed.

UNITED EGG PRODUCERS CERTIFIED – meets minimum industry standards which routinely permit cruel and inhumane practices.

RAISED WITHOUT ANTIBIOTICS – Routine use of antibiotics is illegal, but they are often used on sick birds.  If given antibiotics at anytime, this claim cannot be used.

CAGE FREE – usually means hens are raised in barns or warehouses.  They may not have access to the outdoors, but usually have 2-3 times more space than caged hens.

FREE RANGE – hens have some outdoor access, but there is no way to know how much or what kind. 

PASTURED OR PASTURE RAISED – hens must have some foraging time outdoors. 

Of course, the easiest way to avoid having to determine whether you’re purchasing eggs from inhumane farms is to raise your own chickens.   Many people, even those in urban neighborhoods, are keeping chickens in backyard coops.  BackyardChickens.com is a great place to start for info on how to take the plunge.

To Learn More:

Nutrition Action, “Walking on Eggshells” by David Schardt, November 2010; Center for Science in the Public Interest, http://www.cspinet.org/nah/


Stacey said...

you need the Pickin Chicken App from Mother Earth News! I told my son this is the first app I want to buy for his ipad - he just rolled his eyes at me

JGH said...

That's awesome Stacey!! Definitely gonna get it on my iphone. Well maybe some day your son will be bitten by the chicken bug and he'll be glad he has it (or maybe not LOL)

TALON said...

Poor chickens! What a life! I always buy from the market here from a farm that gives the chickens as sweet a life as they can have.

catmint said...

Thanks for this post JGH- I only buy organic free range but do worry about that the process involved cruelty. If I was starting again I would have chooks I think. We did once have a duckling but it got eaten by a cat before it could grow up. This traumatized my kids and me at the time - 20 years later I think we've recovered. cheers, catmint

catmint said...

just read talon's post - that definitely is the second best to having your own - knowing the farm the eggs come from.

John said...

The United Egg Producers is a discredited trade organization with a sordid history of consumer fraud and animal cruelty. The “UEP Certified” program allows hens to be confined in cages that provide each animal less space than a sheet of paper to spend her life. More at www.humanesociety.org/uep