Not long ago, I came across a documentary about how chickens are typically treated in the factory farms where they are kept to produce eggs for consumers. It was so sad, it actually made me cry. Among other things, the chickens are kept in very small, crowded cages where they barely have room to move. After learning a little more about this issue, I decided I really wanted to purchase eggs from free range chickens. Free range chickens have access to the outdoors where they can walk and stretch their wings and eat bugs they find in the dirt. Those are the things that come naturally to chickens and are healthy for them.
When I went grocery shopping, I spotted some eggs from Egglands Best that are called “Cage Free” on the cartoon. Cage free sounded a lot like free range to me, but I decided to contact the company to make sure. I emailed Eggsland Best and a company employee got back to me very promptly. Unfortunately, I did not like what I heard.
The cage free chickens at Egglands Best are not kept in tiny cages like they are in most factory farms. However, they are kept in a large room in a warehouse-like building. They have no access to the outdoors, so they cannot enjoy snacking on bugs.
The employee told me that they clip the chickens’ beaks, which she said was necessary to prevent them from pecking each other and causing injury. That tells me that the cage free chicken room is overcrowded; chickens kept in crowded conditions, including the cages at most factory farms, frequently peck each other, sometimes so much that chickens die from being pecked, as a response to the overcrowded and unnatural conditions in which they are kept. Healthy, happy chickens don’t do this. What happens in factory farms, though, is that chickens develop mental illness from the poor living conditions and abuse they suffer. Mentally ill chickens peck each other. If the cage free chickens at Egglands Best are suffering this same mental illness, then they are not being treated well.
I’ve never been to the factory farm in question and I’m not sure how many chickens are kept in a room, nor how big or small the room is. To me, it sounds like they aren’t really cage free, but kept in a large concrete cage instead of a small cage with bars. Egglands Best does not advertise its eggs as free range, and they are not free range, although the label of “Cage Free” might cause some customers to imagine they are free range or at least similar to free range. If you are interested in free range eggs, I suggest not purchasing eggs from Egglands Best but instead finding a local farmer that can sell you eggs from free range chickens – chickens that have access to the outdoors and that do not peck each other or show other signs of mental illness.