Of course chickens should run around and do their chicken thing and be fed and treated humanely, whether you’re an animal rights activist or not, right? The eggs we eat should be void of antibiotics and arsenic properties, yes? Seems like common sense to me. But, have you seen some of the factory-farming practices that are going on today? It’s pretty bad. No, really. If every person in the United States had even a ten second glimpse into the reality of factory farming, my guess is the industry would turn on its head overnight. Personally, I was someone who didn’t know there was an issue for the majority of my life. When I started this whole food journey I began to open my eyes and see. I was appalled. I literally shook my head thinking, ‘No way.’ When I finally let the reality sink in and realized the current practices in mega-farming weren’t the exception to the rule but systematic across the board and more than 99 percent of all farmed animals raised and slaughtered in the United States come from factory farms, I couldn’t ‘un-know’ it. Not only could I not un-know it, I became really, really angry. When you are confronted with injustice you can do one of two things, look the other way or take it head on and create change. Here is my attempt to take on some of this by sharing with you a bit of what I have learned in the process of doing food differently.
There are two reasons why you should reconsider the eggs you buy.
The Battery Cage
The battery cage acquired its name due to the long line of cages and wire in chicken houses on factory farms. These long metal lines resemble the cells in an electric battery. Approximately 95% of U.S. commercial eggs come from hens in battery cages. These hens will spend their entire lives in a wire cage the size of a file cabinet drawer and will be confined to a space within that ‘file cabinet drawer’ less than the area of a piece of paper because 4-6 hens are stuffed in each one of the cages. Their feet live on wires, they cannot spread their wings, they defecate on each other and the eggs below them, many have prolapsed uteruses due to the amount of eggs they are laying, which have been genetically bred to do so and the list goes on. This is not optimal for the animal or for the eggs these chickens are producing. The majority of consumers buy and eat caged eggs, most of which are contaminated with feces, often times bleached and void of crucial nutrients only given to eggs that come from hens who have been raised on open pasture.
“Debeaking (or beak trimming) was invented by farmers in the 1930s as a “solution” to the frustrated pecking behavior that develops in chickens forced into crowded confinement. As poultry scientist Ian Duncan has emphasized: “Feather pecking is NOT aggression; rather it’s foraging behavior gone wrong. The solution of the industry is to chop off beaks.” The debeaker machine is used to slice off a portion of a chick’s beak with a hot, metal blade, usually when chicks are between 5-10 days old. As a result of this process, neuromas, or painful swelling, form on the tiny beaks and rarely do the beaks grow back. Some farms at least use infrared techniques so that an open wound is avoided, which causes slightly less pain and swelling afterward.
Normal Chicken Beaks
I could list many more negative farming practices regarding egg-laying chickens, but why go on? If you want a peak into what this looks like the 2010 Humane Society (HSUS) investigation does a good job of shedding light onto what is really going on behind the scenes of factory egg farms. Take a look.
After seeing real footage, cage-free takes on a whole new meaning, to say the least. What is shown in this investigation is not the exception, again, 95% of American eggs come from these types of factory farms. And when it comes to buying ‘good’ eggs from the store, free range & cage free are a bit of a myth. Check out Freshly Grown’s Egg Buying Guide to translate some of the common egg labels found in stores so you know just what to buy.
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