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The Humane Society of the United States Calls on Iowa’s Egg Industry to Phase Out Cage Confinement of Hens, Strengthen Food Safety

HSUS President Warns of a “Public Health Crisis in the Making”

As the number of recalled Iowa eggs jumped to 380 million, The Humane Society of the United States Thursday called on the state's egg industry to begin discussions to phase out the use of battery cages, where laying hens are crammed into tiny cages that are inhumane and that threaten food safety.

In a letter to Iowa Egg Council executive director Kevin Vinchattle, HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle stated, "It is the very system of cramming birds into cages – in warehouses on operations that may confine more than a million animals – that exacerbates the spread of infectious diseases like Salmonella. Confining more than 50 million hens in cages, as Iowa does, is a public health crisis in the making."

Every one of the last 16 studies comparing cage to cage-free systems found higher Salmonella rates in cage systems:

Earlier this year, multiple HSUS undercover investigations at four Iowa egg factory farms revealed rampant animal abuse and food safety concerns, such as live birds forced to live on top of mummified bird carcasses rotting in cages.

142,000 Americans suffering Salmonella infections from eggs every year is an egg-borne epidemic. To protect public health, the egg industry simply must take steps to reduce risks by moving to cage-free operations.


  • American Egg Board research has shown that that common egg cooking methods such as scrambling and serving over easy and sunny side up are insufficient to eliminate the threat of Salmonella.
  • Simply by switching to cage-free housing systems, the egg industry may be able to halve the risk of Salmonella for the American public according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
  • About 95 percent of egg-laying hens in the United States are confined in cages so small, the animals can't even spread their wings.
  • Cage-free hens generally have two to three times more space per bird than caged hens. Cage-free hens may not be able to go outside and, like caged hens, may have parts of their beaks cut off, but they can walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests—all behaviors permanently denied to hens crammed into battery cages.
  • Michigan and California have passed laws to phase out the use of cages to confine hens. California also passed a law requiring that all whole eggs sold statewide be cage-free by 2015. In Ohio, agriculture leaders agreed to a moratorium on the construction of new battery cage egg facilities.


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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization—backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty—on the web at humanesociety.org.