Battery vs Cage Free Hens – Is Either Ethical?

By Jess Murray Truth Theory

A number of major restaurants and grocers in the United States have just committed to switch to only using cage-free eggs in their facilities. Whilst this would initially be seen as a positive move, critics are saying the real issue lies in the fact that consumers are still choosing battery-farmed options due to the dramatic price difference that makes battery-farmed eggs much cheaper.

Due to increasingly efficient farming techniques since the mid-20th century, eggs have been available to purchase for less than 10 cents each, with the average American currently consumes around 267 eggs per year, according to reports. Despite the efficiency, the downside to this method is a miserable life for hens who spend their lives in battery cages in order to produce a mass amount of eggs for the lowest cost. This practice was highlighted by animal rights groups, and has therefore been a mainstream issue ever since. As awareness for animal rights grows stronger, businesses have become increasingly pressured to use cruelty-free produce, which has resulted in about 100 grocery chains, 60 restaurant chains, and dozens of other major food businesses promising to switch to cage-free in the next decade, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Together, they represent an estimated 70% of US egg demand.

This change will come at a price, as egg farms will now need to make big investments in new facilities and equipment to support such a huge increase in demand. However, some egg farmers are worried that after they make their huge investments, demand will decrease as consumers may be reluctant to pay higher prices to know that their eggs are coming from a cage-free source. According to reports, only around 10% of eggs that are sold today are cage-free, largely due to consumers not willing to pay a higher price. Jeff Coit, a poultry industry specialist at Farm Credit Services of America, said, “The ability for the industry to do this conversion is truly subject to the demand for cage-free eggs from the consumer. Today, we’re not there. The vast majority of consumers are still buying the cheaper eggs on the shelf.”

However, in addition to this, some reports claim that the industry of cage-free farming is not that much better than battery farming methods. It is claimed that this form of egg farming, which merely involves the removal of small cages, is often not enough to ensure a high welfare of the hens. Although cage-free farming is an improvement on battery farming, as the hens are able to walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests, which are all vital natural behaviour that are taken away from hens in cages, reports state that the majority of cage-free hens “live in very large flocks that can consist of many thousands of hens who never go outside”.

In addition to this, both systems burn off the beaks of hens in a painful mutilation, so that they do not peck each other in their confinements, and they are both typically slaughtered at less than two years old, which is less than half their normal lifespan. Therefore, whilst cage-free hens generally have a better quality of life than battery-cage hens, animal cruelty elements must still be considered for both.

IMAGE CREDIT:yotrak / 123RF Stock Photo

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I am Luke Miller, content manager at Truth Theory and creator of Potential For Change. I like to blend psychology and spirituality to help you create more happiness in your life.Grab a copy of my free 33 Page Illustrated eBook- Psychology Meets Spirituality- Secrets To A Supercharged Life You Control Here

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