Where To Buy Cage UPDATED Free Chicken
Most egg-laying chickens are cooped up in a cage for their entire egg-laying lives. But as consumers become more aware of living conditions in battery cages on large poultry farms, there is growing demand for meat and eggs from hens that are treated humanely.
where to buy cage free chicken
Caged chickens, by definition, have almost no opportunity to live naturally, and sometimes share their cages with dead chickens. Caged chickens are usually kept battery cages their entire productive life; they can barely stand up, cannot spread their wings, and are denied natural behaviors like roosting, nesting, perching and bathing.
Free-range in theory means cage-free with access to the outdoors. However, there is no other requirement around this access. While free-range chickens have some opportunity to experience natural behaviors, how much opportunity is entirely unregulated and unmonitored. In fact, a majority of free-range birds actually do not venture outdoors because the outdoor environment is often simply a fenced porch with little to no grass, bushes or worms. So in practice, free-range and cage-free provide the same living conditions.
Pasture-raised chickens have the best living conditions among poultry farms today. They are not confined in cages or aviaries, spending most of their time outdoors where they have access to a natural diet of insects and worms.
What chickens eat and how much they are treated with hormones and antibiotics are the biggest influencers on the nutritional value, flavor, and even safety for human consumption of their eggs and meat. While there are no organizations monitoring the validity of caged and free-range chicken nutrition, the assumptions can be made that
However, if free-range chickens are living outdoors in polluted environments, they may be eating things from feces to industrial pollutants that make their meat and eggs less healthy than grain-fed battery-caged chickens. Ultimately, claims as to the environment in which the chickens are raised, their nutrition and care, and what that means to the consumer are loosely regulated and monitored for both caged and cage-free chickens.
A Newcastle University (U.K.) study of the environmental impact of caged vs. free-range meat and egg chicken farming concluded that the costs of free-range farming are greater, and the negative environmental impact is not necessarily less.
The production cycle for meat is longer for free-range chickens as they don't have the rich food and inactive environment and don't plump as quickly, hence manure production is higher. However, energy use -- electricity, gas, oil -- was generally lower. Conversely, in the egg layers, caged birds produced less manure and required higher energy draws, especially for heat.
Legally, the only condition that delineates caged chickens from free-range chickens is that the latter must have access to the outdoors. How much access, and other factors like diet, treatment with hormones and antibiotics, and processing of eggs and meat are not stipulated in this delineation.
In fact, consumers should not confuse the concept of organic with free-range; while it is much more likely free-range chickens that are also free-roaming (seldom indoors) are raised organically, this is not necessarily so. Nor is it impossible for caged chickens to be raised organically, although it is rarely done in large-scale commercial operations.
Some producers keep poultry in enriched cages. These furnished cages feature amenities such as perches, scratching areas and nesting boxes. They come in varying sizes, and some can accommodate as many as 60 birds. Compared to conventional cages, enriched cages provide chickens with a bit more comfort.
There are many different types of cage-free systems. They all have one thing in common: They provide chickens with cage-free spaces where they have enough room to walk, lay their eggs in nests and spread their wings.
These birds may or may not have access to the outdoors; it varies from farm to farm. At the very least, though, they have the freedom to roam the hen house. When compared to the confinement faced by caged birds, this is an improvement.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is another organization that certifies cage-free eggs. What does it mean when eggs are certified cage-free by the USDA? The hens that produce these eggs have unlimited access to food and water. Also, these hens have the freedom to roam when laying eggs.
According to the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, 15 separate scientific studies show caged eggs have a higher likelihood of being infected with salmonella than those raised in cage-free environments.
"The worst torture to which a battery hen is exposed is the inability to retire somewhere for the laying act. For the person who knows something about animals it is truly heart-rending to watch how a chicken tries again and again to crawl beneath her fellow cagemates to search there in vain for cover."
Unlike battery hens, cage-free hens are able to walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests, vital natural behaviors denied to hens confined in cages. Most cage-free hens live in very large flocks that can consist of many thousands of hens who never go outside. The vast majority of cage-free hens live on farms that are 3rd-party audited by certification programs that mandate perching and dust-bathing areas. These advantages are very significant to the animals involved.
"Battery cages present inherent animal welfare problems, most notably by their small size and barren conditions. Hens are unable to engage in many of their natural behaviors and endure high levels of stress and frustration. Cage-free egg production, while not perfect, does not entail such inherent animal welfare disadvantages and is a very good step in the right direction for the egg industry."
Cage-free hens are spared several severe cruelties that are inherent to battery cage systems. But it would nevertheless be a mistake to consider cage-free facilities to necessarily be "cruelty-free." Here are some of the more typical sources of animal suffering associated with both types of egg production:
So, while cage-free does not necessarily mean cruelty-free, cage-free hens generally have significantly better lives than those confined in battery cages. The ability to lay their eggs in nests, run and spread their wings are tangible benefits that shouldn't be underestimated.
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They are succeeding, and this is where the change starts. In recent years, several big food companies have promised to switch to "cage-free" eggs. They include Unilever, which sells Hellmann's mayonnaise, and Aramark, which supplies food to big companies, colleges and prisons.
Those promises set off a supply chain reaction. "There weren't enough cage-free eggs for us to do Hellmann's Light mayonnaise, initially," says Doug Balentine, director of nutrition and health for Unilever North America. "It's going to take us about five years of working with egg suppliers so that we can convert all the egg farmers, just to supply the eggs for Hellmann's mayonnaise."
Harold Sensenig (left) is selling his cage-free eggs to Paul Sauder (right). Denny Williamson (center, with chicken) works with Powell's Feed Service, which supplies chickens to Sensenig's farm. Dan Charles/NPR hide caption
According to the United Egg Producers, about 7 percent of all eggs now come from cage-free houses. That's up from 3 percent five years ago. For Sauder's business, it's currently 10 or 12 percent, and growing every year.
Yet as Sauder stands amid the crowd of chickens, he does seem pleased. You're closer to the animals, he says, the way farmers were 50 years ago. You also get to see chickens acting more like chickens, dust-bathing or perching on long metal rods up near the ceiling. "You come in here at nighttime, those things are all full up there, because birds migrate to the top perches. That's where they feel safest," he says.
In Michigan, scientists are carrying out a large-scale experiment with three different full-scale chicken houses. One has chickens in traditional cages; one has so-called enriched cages that are bigger, and include nests and perches; and a third house is cage-free.
For instance, in cage-free systems, chicken litter builds up on the floor, so chickens scratch around and dust-bathe in their own waste. "There are concerns about that, relative to egg safety," he says. "Now, for the hen's behavioral repertoire, this is cool! We can get down and dust-bathe, and so on."
The experiment has been running for a year now, and the scientists have released some preliminary observations. Here are just a few: Hens in cages were cleaner, but cage-free chickens kept more of their feathers. Cage-free hens may have had more freedom, but twice as many of them died during the year.
Do you find the selection of egg cartons to be overwhelming at the grocery store? With labels like "organic," "free-range," "cage-free," and "vegetarian fed" it's hard to know which carton of eggs is best to buy! While food labeling should be simple and transparent, it's unfortunately, anything but. We'll help you crack the case about egg labeling so that you can shop for the most "egg-cellent" eggs available!
Conventional eggs, are not the most ethical or nutritional eggs available. Hens that lay conventional eggs are housed inside climate-controlled barns in stacked rows of cages. Inside of the cages, birds are given continual access to water and food. However, each bird is only given a small amount of space to live in, approximately the size of a sheet of paper. Additionally, because the hens live in such close proximity to one another, the chances of conventional eggs carrying salmonella bacteria is 7 times higher than cage-free eggs. Not to mention, that these birds are also fed poor quality feed that often contains antibiotics and hormones -- so, if you are what you eat -- well, you get the idea. Conventional eggs are not the best option to buy. 041b061a72