Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Where Do You Get Your Eggs?

Since the topic of eggs came up, here's an article my best friend sent to me last week:

Sorting Through the Claims of the Boastful Egg, New York Times, September 16, 2008

It defines:
"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."

"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.)"
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:
  • 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.)
David Sudarsky, writing for The Vegetarian Site in 2004, discovered that:
  • Trader Joe's "Cage Free" hens are debeaked.
  • Shelton's "Free range" hens are debeaked.
Birds are debeaked (rather inhumanely) when they are housed in high-density environments.

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."
Related posts:
"Certified Humane" Allows Beak Cutting
When Humanely Raised Is Not Humane

1 comment:

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