A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Sep 6, 2010

More about eggs - free range/roaming not the answer

Many people worried about the egg situation and salmonella are looking to "free range" and/or "free roaming" eggs as a solution. Unfortunately, they are not the panacea for concerns in the egg industry.

In the United States these labels mean very little. Free range requires "access" to the outdoors. There is neither a requirement as to length of time outside nor that the hens actually go outside. "Access" can merely be opening a window or door for a few minutes each day - weather permitting! Hens can still be debeaked and forced to molt, and the "range" can be filthy, soggy and full of poop. Ironically, salmonella is a huge concern as rodent control is difficult and the bacteria are thought to come from rat and mice droppings.

"Free roaming" or "cage free" simply means - no wire cages. It can mean that the hens are crammed inside, one on top of the other with no requirement that they have access to the outside! In some cases a cage might give them more room! They are permitted to be debeaked, forced to molt, and again, salmonella is an issue.

Other labels such as "Certified Organic" have more to do with what they are fed rather than the humaneness of the husbandry. Even labels containing the word "humane" can be obtained when debeaking and tiny cages are the norm.  In any event, it is not a pretty picture. Unfortunately, some of the most humane producers, (certified as "Animal Welfare Approved") that allow natural behavior (including molting), regulate density, and prohibit debeaking, have very few, if any, contracts with supermarkets!

Just thought you would want to know.

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