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Helen Bennett Harvey promises that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog. Vegging Out is a recipe for a new way of life. Or at least a new way of eating. Pull up a chair. Contact me at:

Monday, December 3, 2007

Where are the humane eggs??

Since my decision not to eat meat is partially based on a concern over the treatment of farm animals, I thought I should look into how the animals who produce the eggs and milk that I love so dearly are treated. At present, we buy the cheapest eggs and milk we can find with no special consideration to anything other than the expiration date and percent fat (in the case of milk).

Turns out there's a LOT of information on this subject. To make it slightly more manageable, I'll focus just on eggs in this post.

To begin, here is the Humane Society of the United States' report on The Welfare of Animals in the Meat, Egg, and Dairy Industries, if you can stomach it.

Also, here is a rather graphic description from United Poultry Concerns, Inc. on the life of a chicken who produces our eggs.

Words, words, words
There are many terms I've heard used--free range, organic, cruelty free, cage free, etc.--to describe eggs, but I don't know what they technically mean. I also have no idea if the use of any or all of these terms is regulated by some trustworthy body, or if producers can simply slap any label they wish on their eggs/ dairy products.

I found this very thorough and interesting editorial on eggs off a site called The article was very informative, but left me thoroughly depressed and without a solution to my humane egg inquiry.

Here's another site that promises to expose the "truth about eggs." It begins with two interesting poll results: "According to a 2003 Gallup poll, the majority of Americans support passing strict laws to protect farmed animals. Additional polls further reveal that most consumers are willing to pay more for what they perceive to be more humane products."

It also includes excerpts from the Humane Society of the United States' guide for reading egg cartons, and clearly defines what a number of terms actually mean. Of all the many terms that are used to make eggs seem more attractive to concerned consumers, only one actually seemed to provide a semblence of humane treatment for the chickens. That is Certified Humane, which means, "The birds are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but may be kept indoors at all times. They must be able to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching, and dust bathing. There are requirements for stocking density and number of perches and nesting boxes. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing. Certified Humane is a program of Humane Farm Animal Care."

That site also contains a link to this, another site which is concerned over the use of false or misleading language or images in the advertising of eggs. Included on the site is a petition (scroll down to see it) to get the FDA to "establish a uniform, market-wide regulation mandating labeling of egg production methods on egg cartons (i.e. "eggs from caged hens") to protect consumers from false and misleading advertising. You can sign onto the petition there if you wish.

To be fair, I will provide you with writings from the other side of the argument.
I found this editorial from The Center for Consumer Freedom, which I did not agree with. The author claims that an initiative by the Humane Society of the United States to promote humane treatment of chickens is really just a "vegan smokescreen." Maybe the HSUS is promoting veganism because they feel there is no humane way to eat eggs at present. What's wrong with that? People aren't vegans just for the hell of it, they do it because they're concerned about animal welfare.

The author also expresses skepticism that cage free eggs really are more humane, writing, "The University of Notre Dame decided not to switch to cage-free eggs after visiting both cage and cage-free operations, and finding that 'both operations they toured appeared to take equally good care of their chickens.'" From what I've been reading, it seems more likely that both operations took equally bad care of their chickens.

The author also argues that cage free eggs cost consumers more. I say that's an option consumers should have. Right now, I'm pretty disappointed because I would be willing to pay more for an egg that is truly humane, but haven't yet been able to find one that is readily available. I discussed this with my boyfriend last night, and he suggested we buy ourselves a chicken and a cow. As nice as that sounds, I don't think they'd be very happy roaming our tiny, asphalt covered backyard.

Ay yay yay, that's enough for one day. I'll look into milk in the near future.



Anonymous Tracy said...

I just wanted to let readers know the truth about the poorly named Center for Consumer Freedom. It was created with money from the tobacco industry and is a lobbyist group for the meat, dairy, restaurant and alcohol industries. Visit SourceWatch and for more information.

And for a great read, check out this blog post:

December 04, 2007 12:40 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Animal Welfare Approved is another program that sponsors humanely raised animal products. They work with family farms who practice sustainable and humane husbandry standards.

December 04, 2007 12:42 PM 
Anonymous Phil said...

So what if the Center for Consumer Freedom was created by money from the tobacco industry as a lobbyist for the meat, dairy, restaurant and alcohol industries?

You types might consider all of those industries to be headed by a bunch of baby-stomping robber barons. But someone has to represent them, and those people protect people like me.

Watch the Sly Stallone movie "Demolition Man." It might blow your mind.

December 04, 2007 3:44 PM 

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