Supporting a corporation that sources eggs from ‘cage free’ facilities does little to improve chickens’ quality of life; in fact, living standards can be just as bad as life in a cage - or worse.
On September 10, 2015, McDonald’s announced that it would no longer source eggs from chickens that live in cages.
“The maker of Egg McMuffins announced that within 10 years, all of its American and Canadian egg suppliers will be cage-free,” reported NPR.
While this announcement is in many ways positive, for it hints at a future in which American farmers treat the animals they raise to generate profit with more respect, the switch is not all it seems to be.
According to the Humane Society, 90% of the eggs presently produced in America come from hens stuffed inside cramped – and often-times filthy – cages. Because consumers don’t have to see the horrendous conditions many hens live in, they get by on ignorance and support a system which has been shown time and time again to offer more cruelty to the birds than kindness.
Of course, decades ago, the method wasn’t as grotesque as it has become today. Chad Gregory, the president of the United Egg Producers, shares that when the caged hen method was initially introduced, it was seen as a means to keep eggs and chicken barns clean – which worked quite well.
“The eggs were super clean. The feed, the water, everything in these houses became super clean,” he said.
But of course, greed eventually influenced the system; now the caged hen situation is anything but humane.
Documentaries and leaked footage have helped consumers become educated on the issue, and in response, many companies and families now buy only cage-free eggs.
This is where a problem – lesser known to many – still exists. Just because one purchases cage-free eggs does not mean they are supporting a system which treats its hens well.
As exposed in the video above, hens living in stuffy barns can experience just as poor conditions as life in a cage. The farmer who supplies to Purdue allowed wildlife advocates onto his land to document the shocking living situation for thousands of chickens.
He shares that in just six weeks, it is common to lose 1,000 chickens out of 30,000 due to illness, genetic problems, injected hormones (causing chickens’ bodies to grow disproportionately – and too fast!) and injuries – sometimes inflicted by other hens out of boredom and stress.
‘Cage Free’ Doesn’t = Ethical, Clean, Or Humane
Chickens living in a ‘cage free’ facility often live in tightly packed chicken barns and are given little to no fresh air to breathe or sunlight to bathe in. It’s quite similar with chicken barns for egg layers.
According to this source, to be ‘cage free’, an egg-laying chicken must have at least enough room to stretch their wings and turn around (about 1 ft of square space). That’s quite opposite of what most consumers imagine cage-free means: a chicken eating bugs and running around a farm yard.
In such cramped, crowded spaces, hens receive limited movement because of the amount of birds, and little to no chance to get outside. In addition, it’s very common for chickens to become raw from walking on their own chicken litter every day. Such conditions are not beneficial for chickens or for egg consumers.
What Is The Solution?
An egg, no doubt, can be a very nutritious and delicious food to include in one’s diet. However, it is not ethical to raise animals in unsanitary conditions and inhumane fashion. It has been proven before that animals that thrive produce healthier products, and, in effect, support healthier humans.
Corporations, like McDonald’s, Nestle, and General Mills, are choosing to source ‘cage free’ eggs to please you, the consumer, so they can gain more profit. They could be less interested in the welfare of the animals because they are running a business and know that demand is high for ethically-sourced products.
But are eggs sourced from hens living in cramped, crowded, and unsanitary barn conditions really that much better?
It will always be best for the planet, the consumer, and the chickens to source eggs from free-range, local, and truly cage-free hens that have the ability to roam outside and feel free.
So while McDonald’s may be attempting to win back customers by telling consumers it’s sourcing ethically-sourced, cage-free eggs, be wary. Not everything is as it seems to be, and more often than note, companies making such claims are doing so only because they are interested in increased profit.
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