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October 27, 2010

Consumers, Companies, Science Favor Cage-Free Eggs

Despite crowing by the United Egg Producers—an agribusiness trade association—evidence shows that the national trend toward cage-free eggs is growing.

Earlier this year, Hellmann’s mayonnaise announced it that will convert to 100 percent cage-free eggs; all Wal-Mart’s private line eggs are cage-free; and Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, Quiznos, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, and Golden Corral are just some of the major restaurant chains that use cage-free eggs. Additionally, Michigan and California have passed laws to outlaw and phase out cages for laying hens. California recently passed a law requiring all whole eggs sold in the state to be cage-free by 2015.

These corporate and public policies have followed an influx of support for cage-free egg production. A study by food industry consultancy, Technomic, ranked animal welfare as the third-most important social issue to restaurant patrons and an American Farm Bureau-funded report found that 95% of Americans believe that farm animals should be well-cared for. TIME magazine, The New York Times, The American Conservative and The Washington Post are just some of the major news outlets that have echoed consumers’ sentiments through articles condemning agribusiness’ abuse of farm animals.

An abundance of scientific research also supports switching to cage-free systems. Dr. Ian Duncan, Professor Emeritus of Poultry Science, University of Guelph, states, “The welfare advantages for non-cage husbandry systems for laying hens are overwhelming.” Dr. Bernard Rollin, Department of Animal Science, Colorado State University, states, “Virtually all aspects of hen behavior are thwarted by battery cages. …animals built to move must move.” And Dr. Michael Appleby, co-author of “Poultry Behaviour & Welfare,” states, “Battery cages present inherent animal welfare problems” and points out that “Cage-free egg production…is a very good step in the right direction.”

Not cramming hens into cages also benefits food safety. Every one of the last ten studies comparing cage to cage-free systems found higher Salmonella rates in cage systems, including a 2010 study that found 20 times greater odds of Salmonella infection in caged flocks.

John Baker, president of Giving Nature Foods—a Pennsylvania-based cage-free egg company—said, “It’s shameful for the United Egg Producers to denigrate family farmers who don’t confine hens in small cages.” Baker continued, “As a multi-generational family farmer I can say for certain that cramming hens in tiny cages is not only cruel and inhumane, it also is a food safety threat.”

Facts

  • The UEP has a sordid history of animal cruelty and consumer fraud: the trade group was forced to  pay a $100,000 fine to seventeen state attorneys generals for false animal welfare claims, has  twice been rebuked The Better Business Bureau for these misleading claims, and is at the center of a massive ongoing criminal price-fixing lawsuit.
  • 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.  

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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.

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