Sorting Through the Claims of the Boastful Egg, New York Times, September 16, 2008
"CAGE FREE - The agriculture department says this means that the chickens were kept out of cages and had continuous access to food and water, but did not necessarily have access to the outdoors."The article includes other definitions, including the meanings of: ORGANIC, VEGETARIAN-FED (chickens are not vegetarians), NO HORMONES (meaningless, no hormones are approved for any eggs), NO ANTIBIOTICS, NATURALLY-RAISED, and some on how humanely the animals were raised. Only one of the following is preferred:
"FREE RANGE - The agriculture department says that in addition to meeting the cage-free standards, free-range birds must have continuous access to the outdoors, unless there’s a health risk present. There are no standards, though, for what that outdoor area must be like. (A concrete lot could do.)"
- ANIMAL WELFARE APPROVED (Preferred. No more than 500 birds/flock. No debeaking.)
- CERTIFIED HUMANE RAISED AND HANDLED (Cage-free, not necessarily outdoors. Dense housing, 1.5 sq. ft. per bird.)
- AMERICAN HUMANE CERTIFIED (Cage-free, not necessarily outdoors. Dense housing, 1.25 sq. ft. per bird.)
- UNITED EGG PRODUCERS CERTIFIED (Not endorsed by animal welfare groups. Dense housing, 67 sq. in. per bird, less than a sheet of paper. A member of the Egg Producer's own advisory board says that 80 inches is a "meager" space allowance that is "barely enough for the hen to turn around," let alone spread her wings.)
- Trader Joe's "Cage Free" hens are debeaked.
- Shelton's "Free range" hens are debeaked.
People in California are fortunate. They get to vote for Proposition 2 this November, which could at least put an end to battery cages, something Europe has done away with. Right now, "almost all of California's 19 million egg-laying hens are packed into battery cages, forced to stand on wire and denied the ability to perch or nest."
"Certified Humane" Allows Beak Cutting
When Humanely Raised Is Not Humane