Can Eggs Be Cruelty-Free?

April

7

by Becky // in Food

If you love eggs but are trying to avoid supporting factory farms that treat their chickens so inhumanely – we understand how tricky it can be to find reputable egg suppliers that you can trust.

What would cruelty-free conditions look like for a hen? And how can you trust that the eggs you’re buying are ethically sourced?

Can Eggs Be Cruelty-Free?

Eggs can be cruelty-free if they are farmed in a humane environment where the hens that produce them have a nutritious diet and enough space to roam. Most of the time, you can buy these eggs at your local farmer's market, health-conscious supermarkets, and health food stores.

If you'd like to know more about cruelty-free eggs and why you should exclusively buy them – we've got you covered. Below we will break down precisely what it means to be cruelty-free, and then we'll examine the various ways you can make sure the eggs you're buying are responsibly gathered.

So, come along and take a step into creating a more humane society.

What Does it Mean to For an Egg to Be Cruelty-Free?

"Cruelty-free" is an umbrella term that includes everything from products like clothing made with the environment and seamstresses in mind to foods like dairy products produced without harming or killing animals.

Cruelty-free eggs are the product of chickens that are raised in an environment with a healthy diet and humane conditions.

Often, standard store-bought eggs come from factory farms where the chickens are raised under inhumane conditions and given food that is only meant to boost their flavor but isn't necessarily good.

What is So Cruel About Factory Farming Chickens?

You may have heard how bad factory farming is, but you may be wondering what exactly makes it so inhumane-particularly when it comes to raising chicken.

There are several issues with the way factory farms treat chickens, including:

  • Stressed laying hens: While hens aren't the most intelligent animals, there is actually evidence that they experience empathy and have a degree of cognition worth recognizing.

    Factory farms are stressful environments that affect how healthy the hens are when they lay their eggs – particularly from a hormonal standpoint. So factory-farmed eggs are not only inhumane but damaging to the quality of eggs the hens produce. 
  • Inhumane caging: Factory farmed hens are kept in small battery cages where they can only eat and lay eggs. On average, they are only given less than one square foot, each with around nine hens in one cage, causing a great deal of stress for the birds and affecting their eggs' nutrition and flavor.
  • Poor diet: Chickens have a pretty diverse diet eating everything from insects to various plants in which they can forage.

    However, chickens raised in factory farms are pumped full of GMO-rich grains and corn products. They never really given time to roam around and diversify their diet – this does affect the flavor of their eggs as well as the nutritious value they carry.
  • Physical Injury: The cages the hens are kept in are made of metal wire. Because so many hens are crammed into one enclosure, it's not uncommon for them to sustain injuries from being pressed against the caging.

    After an injury is sustained, it’s rarely treated. So injuries lead to infections that don’t leave their bloodstream after they are slaughtered. 
  • Antibiotics: In a short-sighted move, the factory farming industry has decided to pump chickens full of antibiotics to avoid bacterial problems. The unfortunate side effect of this is that it builds up antibiotic resistance in chickens.

    Meaning that the chickens will do better in the short term, but they will be more susceptible to illness in the long term and are far harder to treat.

While each one of these disadvantages to factory-farmed eggs could be harmful, all of them together are certainly not good for the chickens or those that eat their eggs.

We can understand if you’re questioning the chicken industry as a whole right now. So, if you’re asking yourself the question: “Should I eat chicken at all?” – here’s an article that will help: Is It Cruel to Eat Chicken?

What Are the Benefits of Cruelty-Free Eggs?

Cruelty-free eggs are not only good for the chickens but for the people who eat them as well.

Because of the diet of chickens raised in factory farms coupled with the processing that goes into preparing standard store-bought eggs, they end up being less nutritious than their cruelty-free counterparts.

Just a few of the many benefits of cruelty-free eggs include:

  • More nutritious: Because free-range chickens are fed a healthier diet and are kept in less stressful conditions, they produce healthier eggs. They have ⅓ less cholesterol, ¼ less saturated fat, and more vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids than their factory-farmed counterparts.
  • Better taste: Many people have found that cruelty-free eggs taste considerably better than standard factory-farmed eggs. They claim the texture is creamier and the taste of the yolk is richer. In part, this is because cruelty-free eggs tend to be fresher, but it is also likely due to the diet and low stress of free-range hens. 
  • Better for the environment: The factory farming surrounding chickens is the second largest contributor to ammonia emissions in the world. If a large percentage of the population switched to cruelty-free eggs from free-range chickens, it would be far better for the environment.

Something important to remember, however, is that there are not many regulations in place for a chicken to be labeled free-range or cage-free. They can still live in low-quality, crowded areas that are not properly cared for.

One of the best labels to look out for is “pasture-raised.” This means the chickens could forage for their own food and their eggs often have a deep and rich yellow yolk – an indicator of the powerful antioxidant lutein.

If you can’t find any label that guarantees eggs come from pasture-raised hens, you can always look for a third-party label from a welfare organization. The gold standard one being AWA (Animal Welfare Approved) – they only approve family-owned farms that ensure chickens live in their natural state.

Where to Find Cruelty Free Eggs

So now that we've established why cruelty-free eggs are the way to go, you're probably wondering where you can find them. Fortunately, there are several different places you can find cruelty free eggs these days, including:

  • Farmers Markets: This is perhaps the most popular place to find cruelty-free food in general. Local farmers sell everything from produce to dairy products and eggs at the farmer's markets. Unlike large factory farms where animals are crammed together and force-fed food to make them fat, many small farms raise animals and grow crops the old-fashioned way.
  • Health Food Stores: Often, specialty shops like health food stores will have a selection of cruelty-free foods. Unlike the eggs you buy at the supermarket, these eggs are usually grown on small farms where the chickens are fed a more nutritious diet and given room to roam.
  • Online: Many different stores sell cruelty-free eggs. A good number of them have store locators on their websites that will allow you to find the nearest place that carries cruelty-free eggs, so you don't have to guess.
  • Individuals: You can find individuals who raise chicks on craigslist that will be happy to sell you some of the eggs they've gathered. Just take the standard precautions you would take buying anything else on Craigslist to make sure you're getting what they're advertising.
  • Your own chickens: A great way to get cruelty-free eggs is to simply raise some chickens yourself. If it's your first time taking on this task – you'll want to make sure that you seek the advice of experts either online or from the many guidebooks published.

And if you have slightly older children that appreciate nature, then raising chickens together will be a fantastic way to teach them responsibility.

So, Can Eggs Be Cruelty-Free?

Eggs can indeed be cruelty-free if the hens they are sourced from are raised in humane environments and fed healthy diets.

Factory farms are the number one source of inhumanely sourced eggs. So, if you want to find cruelty-free eggs, you need to buy from local farms and small businesses where the chickens are guaranteed to be free-range.

Beyond just the fact that the hens are better treated in these free-range environments, their eggs also come with several other benefits. They are better for the environment, tastier, and more nutritious than their factory-farmed counterparts, and they tend to be far fresher. You really can't go wrong by switching to cruelty-free eggs!

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