April 19, 2012
Barren, Cramped Cages
Life for America's egg-laying hens
American egg factory farms cram more than 90 percent of the country's 280 million egg-laying hens into barren cages so small the birds can't even spread their wings.
Each bird has less space than a sheet of paper on which to spend her entire life. Virtually unable to move, they can't do many things that are important for their wellbeing, like perch, nest, or dust bathe.
The science proves[PDF] what common sense already told us: that animals confined in such an extreme way endure constant suffering. And studies[PDF] also show that not confining animals in cages may also improve food safety and sustainability.
The HSUS offers materials that make it easier for consumers to avoid eggs from caged hens: Look through our guide to egg carton labels, our egg alternatives list, and dozens of delicious, humane recipes that are egg-free.
The HSUS has also led the charge to reform America's egg industry for many years, resulting in important progress toward better conditions. Here's a quick look at some of our groundbreaking work to help egg-laying hens:
- In 2008, The HSUS was the primary sponsor of California's Proposition 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, which passed by a landslide 63.5% vote, requiring that all California egg producers phase out their use of battery cages. (The law also banned other similarly restrictive devices for other farm animals.)
- The HSUS then spearheaded another successful effort in California, resulting in a law requiring all whole eggs sold statewide—regardless of where they're produced—to be produced in compliance with Prop 2 by 2015.
- The HSUS negotiations with agricultural leaders also resulted in Michigan passing a law to ban battery cage confinement and Ohio—the nation's second-largest egg-producing state—placing a moratorium on the construction of new cage egg-production facilities.
- In 2011, The HSUS, in conjunction with the United Egg Producers (the egg industry's trade association), jointly drafted a federal bill that, if passed into law, would require that every U.S. egg producer confining birds in cages double the space per hen and add "environmental enrichments" like perches, scratching areas, and nesting areas to improve the birds' welfare. The law would also require that every egg carton sold in the country contain information about how the eggs were produced, such as "eggs from caged hens."
HSUS undercover investigators have exposed the suffering of hens in battery cages time and time again, including at many of the nation's largest egg companies. Those investigations include: Cal-Maine Foods (the largest U.S. egg producer), Rose Acre and Rembrandt Foods (the second- and third-largest egg producers), Michael Foods, and Kreider Farms.
Following discussions with The HSUS, leading food companies—like Burger King, Subway, Wolfgang Puck, and Unilever (which produces Hellmann's Mayonnaise and other products)—have committed to transition to 100 percent cage-free eggs.
- Walmart and Costco have ensured that their private label brand eggs are 100 percent cage-free.
- Compass Group, the world's largest food-service provider, has switched roughly 100 million of its eggs to cage-free.
- The HSUS has also helped dozens of other major companies begin transitioning to cage-free eggs. Just some of those companies include: Wendy's, Quiznos, Kraft Foods, Sara Lee, General Mills, ConAgra Foods, Harris Teeter, Safeway, Starbucks, Denny's, Whataburger, Sonic Drive-In, Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Marriott hotels, Hyatt Hotels, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and Au Bon Pain.
According to the Sustainable Endowments Institute, 64 percent of universities are using cage-free eggs—hundreds of them after working with The HSUS. They include Le Cordon Bleu culinary institutes, University of Florida, UCLA, Harvard, Princeton, and many more.