- To date, there are approximately 179 egg producing companies with flocks of 75,000 hens or more. These companies represent about 95% of all the layers in the United States. In 1987, there were around 2,500 operations.
- As of March 2012, cage-free production is 5.7 percent of the total U.S. flock size. Of this, 2.9% is organic and 2.8% is other.
Most of the eggs in this country come from hens raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) or factory farms. Most hens are kept in cages. Cage-free hens "are not caged but are housed inside facilities with no outdoor access."
From that same article:
Hens raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) receive their meals on a conveyor belt. It’s a grain-based “mash” formulated from corn, soy, and supplements. Cage-free and some free-ranging hens are often given the same mash, which — unless it’s organic — can include antibiotics, pesticides, genetically modified grains, and animal byproducts.Also, male chicks, since they can't lay eggs, are summarily exterminated.
Economical it may be, but it’s pretty easy even for the most value-minded consumer to be turned off by a caged-hen facility. A quick Internet search reveals plenty of footage of overcrowded battery cages dripping with feces and chicken workers wearing hazmat suits to protect themselves from the ammonia fumes and general squalor. Anyone who’s driven by an industrial chicken farm knows the telltale stench.
Even in the most pristine houses, current regulations require only 67 square inches of space per hen, with five to seven hens to a cage. Cages can be stacked 10 high, and feces and urine drop through the wire floors of the cages, hopefully onto conveyor belts where they’re removed from the facility and stored for composting (but it often ends up on other chickens). Beaks are clipped to prevent chickens from pecking each other to death.
The "right" eggs as the Cornucopia Institute calls them are clearly the rare eggs in this country.