The Harsh Reality of Commercial Cage-Free Chickens

Be sure to also check out our earlier post on this topic: Industrialized Cage-Free Eggs: Not a Perfect Solution



Video Reveals How ‘Cage-Free’ Hens Live, Animal Advocates Say

New York Times

Excerpt:  After years of pressure from animal advocates, dozens of food companies have committed themselves to “cage-free” eggs produced by hens not living in the cramped quarters known as battery cages.

Now, however, some of those same advocates are turning their attention via video cameras on the farms where cage-free eggs are produced. Using some of the same tactics that drove food companies to move away from caged hens, advocates are asking whether the conditions for the cage-free chickens are much better.

On Thursday, Direct Action Everywhere, an all-volunteer animal advocacy group, released a video of a stealth visit to a cage-free barn in California that produces eggs sold at Costco under its private label brand, Kirkland. The video shows dead birds on the floor and injured hens pecked by other chickens. One bird had a piece of flesh hanging off its beak.

The video focuses on a hen that Direct Action rescued and named Ella. When the organization found her in the cage-free barn, she was struggling to pull herself up and had lost most of her feathers. Her back was covered in feces.

“There were birds rotting on the floor, and there was one dead bird that seemed to have lost her head,” said Wayne Hsiung, who helped make the video for the group, which is better known as DxE. “There were birds attacking birds, and the smell was horrible.”

The egg industry has long warned that hens living cage-free in aviary systems will experience higher mortality rates and more disease. Research by the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, which is financed by egg producers and food companies, found “substantially worse” levels of aggression and cannibalism in cage-free systems, also known as aviary systems, compared with caged systems. It has also found more damage to the birds’ sternums.

“Consumers have an idyllic vision of what cage-free farming looks like. They need to be shown the truth, which is that cage-free is far from humane.”

-Wayne Hsiung, DxE