Consider the following 12 egg facts, most of which are common to all forms of egg farming:
2. Male chicks born to egg-laying hens can not lay eggs, and are not the breed used for meat. Hatcheries separate males from females through a process known as sexing. Since males are worthless to the egg industry, they are disposed of like trash, either suffocated to death or ground up alive in large industrial macerators.
photo credit: eren, via Flickr
4. Newborn chicks are more intelligent, alert, and aware of their environment than human toddlers, according to recent scientific studies. (3) In fact, many traits that were previously thought to be exclusive to human / primate communication, cognition and social behavior have now been discovered in chickens.
5. Female chicks are sent to egg farms, where, due to decades of genetic manipulation and selective breeding, they produce 250 to 300 eggs per year. In nature, wild hens lay only 10 to 15 eggs annually. (4, 5) Like all birds, they lay eggs only during breeding season and only for the purpose of reproducing.
6. This unnaturally high rate of egg-laying results in frequent disease and mortality.
7. 95 percent of all egg-laying hens in the U.S. — nearly 300 million birds — spend their lives in battery cages so small they cannot even stretch their wings. (6) Packed in at 5-10 birds per cage, they can only stand or crouch on the cages’ hard wires, which cut their feet painfully. In these maddening conditions, hens will peck one another from stress, causing injury and even death.
8. Rather than give them more room, farmers cut off a portion of their sensitive beaks without painkillers. A chicken’s beak is loaded with nerve endings, more sensitive than a human fingertip. Many birds die of shock on the spot.
Photo: Caged hens in an enriched cage colony system in Europe. Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur
9. Most hens on “cage-free” or “free range” operations are also debeaked, as these labels allow producers to confine thousands of birds inside crowded sheds. (7)
10. In a natural environment, chickens can live 10 to 15 years, but chickens bred for egg-laying are slaughtered, gassed or even thrown live onto dead piles at just 12 to 18 months of age when their egg production declines. (8)
11. During transport, chickens are roughly stuffed into crates and suffer broken legs and wings, lacerations, hemorrhage, dehydration, heat stroke, hypothermia, and heart failure; millions die before reaching the slaughterhouse. (9)
12. At the slaughterhouse, most chickens bred for egg-laying are still conscious when their throats are slit, and their hearts are still beating as the blood drains out of their mouths. (10) Millions of chickens worldwide are still conscious when plunged into the scalding tank for feather removal. They drown while being boiled alive.
What Can You Do?
There are delicious and “just like the real thing” plant-based alternatives for every egg dish, from scrambles and omelets to quiche and sunny side ups. It’s also very easy to replace eggs in baking. You can learn more little-known facts about eggs and the hens bred to lay them at our official egg page, Eggs: What Are You Really Eating?
Vegan sausage and eggless sunny side ups from The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook. We have made these sunnies several times and can’t believe how indistinguishable in flavor they are from egg-based sunny side ups. They are very easy to make.
main photo credit, Erin Perry, via Flickr