OK, now that I’ve got 6 of you reading my blog, I thought it time to get on my high horse again about eggs. If I can convince just one of you to buy better eggs I’ll be happy. I’ll be to the moon ecstatic, if one of you got hens.
The New York Times had a nice 2/3 of a page dedicated to a hen’s space to roost back in August. It says that 97% of the eggs produced in the country are from hens kept in battery cages. This gives them and area of 8 inches by 8 inches to live in. They cannot spread their wings to stretch as I see my hens do. These birds have a portion of their beaks removed to prevent cannibalism. This practice is known as beaking. These conditions are absolutely cruel.
Another 2% of hens are “cage-free.” I used to think that was pretty good. In reality this only gives the hens a space of 10.5 by 10.5 inches. The are in massive barns in massive numbers. These birds are often beaked too. This is only necessary when birds are over crowded.
One percent of hens are “free-range.” OK, yes this is better, but the term free-range only means they have access to the outside. Often the doors are too small or only open for limited times. Generally too there’s not much of interest outside, just a fenced in dirt area.
So, with such depressing facts, what do you do? If you want to buy the best eggs possible try your local farmer’s market first. But, beware factory farms frequent these places too. Ask questions and make sure the hens are humanely treated and are truly able to forage around outside. You can also use the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) website Eat Humane to find the best choices available in your grocery store. If the eggs have either logo shown on the right, you’re in good shape.
Now if you’re brave and have the space, you can get backyard hens. They really don’t take a lot of time to take care of: a few minutes each day and then 30 minutes to an hour once a week to clean the coop. They’re odd, funny quirky pets, but I do enjoy their antics. When I go outside they come running to me, begging for treats. The eggs do taste better though, if only for the freshness. Compost their manure and you’ve got gold for your garden too. Just factor in the cost of fencing to keep them out of any area you don’t want them in.