The dreadful treatment of factory farmed chickens is no secret, and many people are opting to buy free range eggs believing they are supporting humane farming. When people picture free range eggs, they think of ‘humanely’ treated hens living a life of luxury pecking around the fresh fields of idyllic country farms and laying eggs at their convenience. Unfortunately, this vision only exists in the mind of marketing gurus, trying to sell an inherently cruel product to consumers trying to make more ethical food choices. The sad reality is that the treatment of free range hens is almost no different from factory farmed hens, and despite what the industry would have you believe, neither option could ever be considered as cruelty-free.
Believe It Or Not, This Is A Free Range Hen
The debilitated, emaciated, and featherless hen was rescued by Animal Liberation Victoria from a free range egg factory, where there were many more just like her. This poor defenseless animal is a victim of an industry that is fooling people into believing that they are actively making a more compassionate choice when they are not.
How The Free Range Egg Industry Operates
The free range egg industry is, for the most part, no different than the egg industry. They get their hens from hatcheries where males, considered a by-product of the process, are separated at birth and killed immediately. In the US alone, hundreds of millions of male chicks are ground up alive within hours of being born, free range or not. The surviving females are packed into tiny crates and shipped off in trucks to their final destination farms, where they will spend the rest of their short lives producing an unnatural amount of eggs. When their bodies become depleted and they are deemed no longer “useful,” they are slaughtered.
What Does “Free Range” Actually Mean?
The “free range” stamp on a carton of eggs signifies a happy hen, and therefore a higher quality egg. This is the promise of “free range,” but rarely, if ever, does the truth live up to the label. The standards in free range farms are shockingly low, and farmers are able to label their eggs as “free range” simply because the hens have access to an outdoor run.
Research has shown “free range” is no guarantee of animal welfare, and hens are suffering just the same as they are on industrialized factory farms. Thousands upon thousands of birds are still crammed into tiny spaces. Consequently, their stress levels rise, and they end up pecking at each other’s feathers and vents, causing great pain and suffering.
U.S. regulations for free range production only require the hens be able to spend part of their time outside, and it is wholly the farmer’s decision how much time that will actually be. Exit holes to the outdoors are few and far between, and, due to the territorial nature of hens, many hens never actually see the light of day because the doors are constantly guarded by the most dominant birds in the flock. Most “free range” hens don’t range freely.
Why Free Range Eggs Are Not The Answer
If you care about the well-being of animals, the good news is you don’t have to consume them or their by-products. There are plenty of vegan alternatives available to replace eggs in your diet, from banana and applesauce in baking to egg-free mayonnaise, and even fake eggs that taste so good you can’t even tell the difference. Bill Gates even funded Hampton Creek Foods, a start-up whose mission is to create the perfect sustainable, cruelty-free, and delicious egg replacement. They’re moving beyond eggs with their Just Mayo and Just Cookies products, and you can too.