Industrialized Cage-Free Eggs: Not a Perfect Solution

A big change is underway. But raising a hen in a “cage free” environment doesn’t mean it will live in a bucolic setting, pecking for bugs in a great green field.

Instead, the most common large-scale cage-free alternatives are so-called aviaries in which hens roost in close quarters, with row upon row stacked high in enormous barns. A critical difference is that they can move around. And in many aviaries, hens have access to outdoor space, though it is often small and hard to reach…

But this is far from a perfect solution…research suggests that they can also introduce health and environmental problems……liberating hens from cages — and holding them in aviaries — doesn’t necessarily make them, or the workers who handle them, any healthier.

 


Eggs That Clear the Cages, but Maybe Not the Conscience

New York Times

American hens produce more than 83 billion eggs a year. Most hens — more than 285 million in all — are housed in cages not much bigger than a shoe box. Stuck in one of these so-called battery cages, a hen might live her whole life without seeing the sunlight, let alone stretching her wings.

Pressure from animal rights activists has led many of the biggest food companies in the country to commit to what are being described as more humane alternatives. In recent months, Walmart, Costco, McDonald’s and others have pledged to transition to buying only cage-free eggs in the years to come.

That is music to the ears of the people who have campaigned against conventional battery cages. Yet while industrial cage-free systems may improve the quality of life for some hens, research suggests that they can also introduce health and environmental problems…

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