Behind the “Cage-Free” Label
It’s no secret that the lives of battery hens are nothing short of miserable. Multiple hens are forced to live in cramped wire cages together, like the one in the photo, with no room to move or stretch for a year or two, or until their egg laying productivity declines, at which point they’re discarded as “spent” hens.
Now, so called “Cage-Free” labels for eggs are fairly common in most grocery stores, but what does that really even mean?
It’s certainly nice to be provided with the alternative visual of happy hens being allowed to roam free in the sun, building nests and taking dust baths, but the truth about cage-free can make that vision seem hopelessly optimistic, if not downright delusional.
Both battery and free-range hens come from hatcheries, where after chicks are sexed in both industries all the males are destroyed. Additionally they all undergo debeaking and force molting, where they’re starved for about two weeks to trick their bodies into starting another egg laying cycle.
One investigation by Jewel Johnson of a cage-free farm resulted in her discovery of what the lives of 10,000 cage free hens were really like.
“The floor under my feet was cement, and the building was freezing cold with no heat in early April. I couldn’t see much for hens at all down the shed…it was just too dark. All I could see was black, all I could hear was crying of hens, all I could smell was ammonia – it was a cold, black cement hell,” she said.
No. The cold, black cement hell description definitely doesn’t equate to the vision of happy hens in the sun. A second investigation of a Free Range Organic Egg farm wasn’t any better.
You can also check out “The Faces of Free-Range Farming” video from the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary.
Of course, the ultimate solution would be for consumers to give up eggs completely, which is why it’s especially great to see companies like Boca go egg-free, instead of cage-free, but will it ever work?
Or will the cage-free industry continue to profit from people who think they’re making a compassionate choice?