Excellent questions, all. Today we’ll broaden your egg-ducation by discussing the differences between cage, barn, and free-range eggs. (Spoiler alert: Free-range eggs are the best by far!) We’ll also discuss the benefits of each — if there are any.
Ready to get egg-ducated (and for us to stop making that joke)? Okay, then. Whip out that notepad / tablet / AI interface and prepare to take some notes.
Let’s get started.
Cage eggs are, as the name suggests, produced by hens who are housed in cages, also known as battery cages. The ethics of caging poultry is under hot debate, but this practice is still quote common, representing 56 percent of the poultry industry. Advocates argue that it’s a very efficient means of egg production and that it keeps hens safe from disease and predation.
The question we should be asking is not how long hens live, however, but what is that life like? Chickens in cage operations live in extremely restricted and uncomfortable spaces, and their welfare is highly compromised. Operators cut their beaks off to prevent them from pecking themselves or others due to stress. Many also live with broken bones that go untreated.
Despite this, 70 percent of Australian shoppers still buy them, and the ills associated with this form of treatment are not yet widely known. Counterintuitively, the article explains, “The RSPCA said its consumer research showed a significant trend against cages; in 2015 about 70 per cent of Australians thought cages cruel, rising to 84 per cent in a new survey, by McCrindle Research based upon a sample size of 1,000 people.”
The takeaway? We know cage eggs are wrong. While it’s not uncommon to turn to them for reasons of price or convenience, there’s a better way.
Barn eggs are from hens that are housed, uncaged, in barns or sheds. They’re not quite as bad as cage eggs in that chickens aren’t stuck in one tiny confined space their whole lives. Now they’re stuck in one large confined space their whole lives. If this seems like a big step up, think again.
As Aussie Eggs explains, the sheer number of hens in those operations still restricts movement severely. They have a hard time exercising and are unable to form normal social relationships; the pecking order is a real thing, after all. Plus, the same high-stress conditions still make beak-clipping “necessary”.
Overall, quality of life is still pretty low. While barn eggs are commonly seen as the “second best” option, that definitely depends on the operator. In many cases, the welfare of chickens really isn’t much better than that of caged chickens. In truth, if you want to support chicken happiness and feed your family the best possible product, there’s really only one choice.
Lay them yourself.
Nope, kidding. That would be weird. Instead, free-range eggs, up next!
After years of confusion about what free-range actually means, we now have an answer. As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, free-range eggs “must come from hens that have meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range, with a stocking density of up to 10,000 birds per hectare.”
Moreover, the new regulations mandate that egg producers must declare the number of hens per hectare. So not only is free range inherently better for chooks, it lets consumers like you decide whether you want to buy eggs from decently happy chickens (10,000 hens per hectare) or from super-de-duper happy chickens at 1,500 hens per hectare, as recommended by the RSPCA.
Ahem… Can we take a moment to say that companies who have a close relationship with the RSPCA always adhere to these standards? *subtly raises hand*
The benefits of free-range eggs even extend to nutrition. According to Health Ambition, they have twice as many omega-3 fatty acids, three times the vitamin E, and seven times more pro-vitamin A beta-carotene. And did we mention the 25 percent less saturated fat and 33 percent less cholesterol? Pretty sweet deal.
At the end of the day, happy chicken eggs do a lot more for the world than you might think. When you buy them, you’re not only ensuring less animal cruelty in the world; you’re also supporting more robust and natural ecosystems, fewer antibiotics and hormones, and the health of your own family. Plus, you can now go forth and egg-ducate others. (Sorry. Last time.)
Want to find out more about the healthy, happy chickens at Happy Chicken Eggs where free-range is just the beginning? Please feel free to reach out to us any time to learn about our chickens’ antibiotic-free food, play structures and toys, rockin’ beaks, or anything else. We can’t wait to hear from you and help you make a difference.