Free Range Vs. Battery Caged Chickens
Free range vs. battery-caged chickens?
The label “free range” or “cage free” sounds good, and in some ways it is a small improvement over battery-caged egg-laying hens raised on factory farms. But cage-free does not mean cruelty-free, both are still highly inhumane and abusive to egg-laying hens.
Cage-free or free-range eggs come from hens that do live uncaged, inside barns, so there is some improvement over the life of battery-caged hens. However, the label on your carton can have a number of different meanings depending on the egg producer, and deceptive and dishonest marketing campaigns have painted a far rosier picture than is the reality for these birds.
Here’s the ugly truth behind both labels – cage-free and battery-caged:
- All male chicks from the same hatcheries, are killed by suffocation or are painfully ground up alive at one day old because they cannot lay eggs.
- All female chicks are debeaked at one day old with no anesthesia. Debeaking a chick is extremely painful for them and impairs the hen’s ability to eat normally ever again.
- All female chickens when their productivity starts to wane are starved for up to two weeks to “force molt” and to shock the body into another “egg laying” cycle. This is done to force hens to produce more eggs for higher corporate profits, and is done by starving the hens for 5-14 days. Many of the hens die during this time.
- “Free range” means the hens only have to be given access to the outdoors for a minimum of 5 minutes a day to meet the government certification standard for “free range.” That does not mean they do go outside for 5 minutes, but just that they have access to one small open door for 5 minutes.
- “Cage free” means that hens are not confined to tiny wire cages, but instead they are confined to over-crowded shelves where they live in cramped, crowded, stressful conditions where they live on top of each other inside dark, large buildings without fresh air or sunlight. In these warehouse-like buildings, they live their entire lives on top of damaging waste fumes and toxic ammonia gasses that completely destroy and badly burn their lungs and upper respiratory systems. Often the waste in these buildings is not removed for a year or longer, and the stench is harmful and toxic to the workers and the surrounding community. In these buildings, hens do not enjoy access to the outside, they do not get fresh air, feel sunlight, walk in open spaces or on grass or dirt—as the marketing images may imply—but instead are confined to dark, overcrowded buildings full of toxic waste fumes their entire lives.
- All female chickens at 12 – 18 months (they typically live 10-15+ years and 35 in the wild) are slaughtered. Their bodies have been genetically manipulated and forced to produce as many eggs as they can physically bear, and their bodies are physically wasted, depleted and spent at a very young age. The hens have painful and diseased reproductive systems and reproductive cancers and tumors from producing too many eggs in too short a time, and are denied veterinary medical care and treatment and left to suffer. Veterinary care is never given to factory farm hens or animals because it reduces corporate profits. The constant, relentless egg-laying in such abnormally high numbers for the hens causes most hens’ reproductive systems to virtually explode or rot, and they painfully suffer and die from acute and chronic disease and infections.
- There is no mandatory third-party auditing and there are no federal government-regulated standards or laws that require monitoring the claims made on these marketing labels.
- For the corporations, there are enormous increases in profits from labeling “cage-free” and “free range,” which benefits the owners but not the hens. With the higher profits made off deceptive marketing, unregulated claims and forced egg production, business owners are building larger facilities, increasing even greater production, and ultimately proportionately increasing the suffering of more hens.
There is really no humane way to produce eggs for human consumption, unless it’s on a farm where chickens are truly allowed to express all of their natural behaviors such as dust-bathing, foraging and nesting; are given access to quality, safe and uncrowded indoor and outdoor spaces; are not debeaked; are not starved to force molt; are given access to temperature controlled inside spaces protected from the elements; are given living vegetation and natural food for chickens that is free of antibiotics, hormones and pesticides; and are not killed after their egg-laying reproductive years wane, but rather, are allowed to live out their natural life as chickens receiving the care, medical support and respect they deserve. Don’t be fooled by deceptive, dishonest marketing using the claims “cage free” or “free range.” These claims are not what they pretend to be.
Here’s a downloadable PDF produced by Humane Myth & Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, showing no significant difference between “factory-farmed” and “free-range” commercial chickens:
PDF Credit: Humane Myth