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The Truth about Egg Farming

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Why is Eating Eggs Cruel?

Did you know that chickens are killed for egg production? Many consumers believe that “humane” egg farms are slaughter-free. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Egg industry cruelty begins the very moment that baby chicks enter the world.

Chicks are hatched in incubated drawers. They are placed onto industrial conveyor belts within a day of hatching. A protective hen should be waiting to teach the tiny baby birds everything they need to know about the world. Instead, the confused chicks are greeted by fast-moving machinery, gloved hands, and cruel treatment.

The first process that chicks undergo is “sexing”. Hatchery workers quickly (and often roughly) determine the sex of the chicks, which will be the deciding factor in life or death.

Egg laying breeds are completely different than birds used for their flesh. They are bred for laying large quantities of eggs, not for growing very large at a fast pace. Because of this, they are considered useless in commercial “meat” production. The male chicks, unable to lay eggs, are immediately condemned to death. They are killed on their first day of life. Methods include suffocation, gassing, or, most commonly, are ground up alive in a blender-like device called a macerator.

Nearly 300 million day-old chicks meet their fate this way every year.

Female chicks have the tips of their nerve rich beaks cut off using a laser or hot blade and without pain relief. This procedure is carried out to prevent birds from fighting and injuring one another on farms. It’s standard practice on modern farms, known as debeaking. This issue is created by stressful and overcrowded conditions.

A rescued hen, debeaked by the egg farm she was saved from. Notice the abrupt end to the tip of her beak. When hatchery workers accidentally cut beaks too short, hens can starve.

Debeaking can cause chronic pain due to tissue and nerve damage. Severely debeaked hens often struggle to eat. 

If a bird’s beak is clipped too far, she may be entirely unable to eat and could starve to death. Rushed, assembly-line style “processing” of newborn chicks increases the likelihood of errors. This means that fatal (or very painful) mistakes are common. 

Young hens find themselves in an even worse situation on egg farms.

A life of suffering for these gentle birds.

United Egg Producers mandates that hens only be provided with 67-86 square inches of space for the entirety of their lives. These are considered national guidelines. To put things in perspective, the average iPad is just over 62 square inches in diameter. This is barely enough room for a hen to stand upright. It is not enough to spread her wings comfortably.

Wire-bottom battery cages catch toes and overgrown nails, causing painful injuries. Foot and toe injuries are some of the most common themes Animal Place sees on our commercial egg farm rescues. Many of these hens suffer from necrotic tissue and infections on their untreated injuries.

“Battery hens” crammed into a cage too small to spread their wings.

In 2020, an estimated 75% of eggs in the United States came from battery cage systems.

Free range and cage-free systems are not necessarily better for animal wellbeing. Cage free hens may not be confined to cages, but can still be raised in barren industrial sheds. While the amount of space per bird on cage free farms tends to be slightly larger, these operations are still extremely overcrowded. Ammonia buildup in laying sheds can cause chickens to fall into respiratory distress. Crowded conditions cause birds to fight and injure one another.

Free range systems in the United States require some form of “access to the outdoors”. However, profit-driven loopholes mean that outdoor access is often limited to a single, dismal run of any size. A shed with tens of thousands of chickens may have an outdoor yard barely large enough for a handful of hens to stand in at a time.

This deceiving marketing tactic targets and takes advantage of consumers who care about animals.

Hens decline in laying production between 1.5-2.5 years of age. At this point, their upkeep is  no longer profitable. Farmers will simply replace them with younger hens.

The “spent” hens, as called by the industry, will not be rewarded for their production of hundreds of profitable eggs with a peaceful retirement. Instead, they are killed.

Egg-laying breeds tend to be small and bony. These birds are not prized for their flesh. Most of these hens are simply gassed to death and rendered into fertilizer, animal feed, and pet food. Sometimes it is cheaper for hens to simply be buried in landfills. 

Whether caged, free range, cage-free or pasture raised, all hens are killed when their laying production declines. 

Animal Place kindly asks that you eliminate eggs from your diet. New alternatives are being released constantly and giving up eggs has never been easier. Animal lovers, we ask you to challenge yourself to ditch eggs. The chickens will thank you!

A rescued battery hen experiences kindness and affection. When we rescue these birds, they touch solid ground, see the sunlight and spread their wings for the very first time. What could be more joyful?

Written by Chelsea Pinkham