Let’s Talk About Eggs…

Exciting news!  Voters here in Washington state may soon be able to vote for new laws protecting laying hens.  A proposal was just submitted to the Secretary of State that would place a statewide measure on November’s ballot requiring better treatment of laying hens.   You can read about it here:  http://humanewa.com/media/press-release/washingtonians-humane-farms-submits-language-2011-ballot-measure-prevent-anima-0

“The measure would require that egg-laying hens have enough room to turn around and extend their wings and that eggs sold in the state are produced in compliance with this humane standard. It would prevent one of the worst factory farm abuses: the extreme confinement of egg-laying hens in small cages where the animals can barely move for their entire lives. If approved by voters, the measure would take effect in 2018, giving producers more than six years to transition to more humane housing systems.
“It is cruel and inhumane to cram animals into cages so small that they can barely move,” stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “These factory farms put so many at risk – animals, consumers, neighbors, and family farmers.  There is an alternative, cage-free production, and this ballot measure allows us to move in that direction in an extended but set time frame.”
About six million egg-laying hens in Washington spend their entire lives inside cages where each hen has less space than a sheet of paper. Factory farms that cram egg-laying hens into tiny cages are not only cruel, but theythreaten food safety. All thirteen scientific studies published in the last five years comparing Salmonella contamination between caged and cage-free operations found that those confining hens in cages had higher rates of Salmonella.”

Now, I know that people from all walks of life might happen upon my blog–vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike.  We may disagree on some fundamental issues regarding using animals for food.  However, I think many of us can find common ground in our desire for animals to be treated humanely.   I would love to get some opinions from those of you who are not vegetarian or vegan.  Is a ballot measure like this a good thing?  When California passed a similar measure in 2008, was that a good thing?  Why, or why not?

In my opinion, this is a great thing.  I just cannot fathom what it is like for an animal to spend the entirety of its days and nights crowded into a cage so small that it cannot move or spread its wings. If someone kept a dog or a cat in such conditions they would be charged with animal cruelty, and rightly so.  I think that all animals deserve a basic level of protection from cruelty, even the farm animals that have been bred for human consumption.

So, if laws were enacted to ensure that laying hens were allowed to roam outdoors, peck the ground, and lay eggs in nests…then would anybody still be vegan?  Why would anyone still avoid eating eggs?  Without going into too much detail, there is still a problem of the male chicks hatched to laying hens.  They aren’t the right kind of breed to grow into big broiler chickens, and they can’t lay eggs…so they are disposed of, right at birth.  So, I am choosing not to buy eggs for my family.  You can read further on this subject HERE.

However, I can fully understand the desire to support the farmers who buy the female chicks from these hatcheries and then give them a beautiful life outdoors.  The photo here (image courtesy of the Organic Valley website) makes me very, very happy.  I love seeing animals treated this way.  However, I know that the reason companies like Organic Valley put photos like this on their website is to do just that – make their customers feel warm and fuzzy about purchasing their products.  Organic Valley is a co-op, meaning that when you buy their eggs, they could come from any number of different farms.  Sure, some may have large fields of chickens roaming free, like the idyllic picture above.  But some may be housed in sheds with only a small patio at the edge of it to fulfill the free-range, organic requirements.  The very best thing to do is to call, write, and/or visit the actual farm(s) from which you will be buying your eggs.  And ask questions!  One question I always like to ask is, “where do you get your chicks?”

I’d really love to get some perspectives on this subject, so please feel free to weigh in, whether you agree with me or not!

5 comments Add yours
  1. I am in total agreement with anything which prevents or lessens cruelty to animals. Dennis and I are not vegans or vegetarians, but for as long as we’ve been aware of the issues, we’ve bought eggs from chicken farmers who advertise their methods as “cage-free.” Seems like the least we can do.

    1. I think that’s fantastic! I am really glad that public awareness of these issues has been growing. I think it can be difficult for frugal shoppers to pass up the incredibly good deals on conventionally produced eggs, which is why raising the minimum standards for egg farming would be so effective. The more humane farmers would no longer be competing against the ultra-low prices that the conventional farmers can offer (as a result of cramming 4-5 hens to a cage…which greatly cuts their costs). For what it’s worth, I’ve heard that the term “free-range” guarantees a higher level of animal care than “cage-free.” Free-range hens have the additional requirement of having access to the outdoors, whereas cage-free hens may still be housed in a large warehouse-type shed for their entire lives. Organic hens must by definition be free-range, so that’s another safe bet.

  2. I don’t have anything more to add to this, other than a sincere “thank you” for doing your part in getting the word out there. As for us, we are going to retain our WA voter registration and residency until after this very important election. Hmmmm, and maybe a lot of yummy cooking-and-baking-without-eggs food posts!

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