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One Way to Stop Animal Cruelty: Cage-Free Chickens, Eggs
WARNING-This won't be pretty
Animal cruelty is out there. If you are an animal lover like me, you don't want any animal to suffer. However, in our commercial farms, severe animal abuse happens on a daily basis. They live in overcrowded conditions, usually in their own filth. Not only is it unhealthy for the animals, it is ultimately unhealthy for us.
Some of these images may be disturbing, but I don't want to sugar-coat this issue. When you pick up your next carton of eggs at the supermarket, you should know how many animals suffered to bring you that food. Also, you should know that you have choices. If you can't raise your own chickens, buy from a local farmer who does. Or buy cage-free or free-range eggs. You can make a difference in how our food is raised and treated!
I didn't set out to be a chicken farmer. It wasn't my dream to grow up and have a bunch of chickens scratching on my lawn.
Yet here they are, scratching and chuckling softly all around my legs as I write this hub. As I watch them, I always feel a little wonder and a midge of pride. In short, they make me smile.
Oh, and they give me some high quality eggs, which is one of the reasons I got them in the first place. I didn't count on enjoying their presence. They are curious little hens, always finding mischief with a side of moth. They even have a sense of humor. The other day, I split their water all over myself, and I swear, they all started chuckling at me.
But still, it's a lot of hassle and work. Cleaning their coop and run is a major project and you have to make sure they are fed and watered regularly, probably several times a day. After you factor the cost of food, bedding, and other upkeep, I'm not really saving any money on eggs.
So why? Well, there are many reasons to raise chickens, but my main reason was this:
This is legal animal cruelty
My great-grandfather raised chickens and sold their eggs for a living, and he made a decent living too. It got his family through the Great Depression.
His chickens ran around in the great outdoors all day long. The feed was probably organic; I can only assume since they didn't use a lot of chemicals back then. The chickens were treated well because it was his livelihood. They had a symbolic relationship; he took care of them and they gave him eggs to sell. I like to think he was fond of them.
I'm not sure what he would think of the mass production of eggs today. Local farmers have turned into commercial assembly lines. The animals involved are treated with no more respect than the tiny cages they reside in. They are nothing but a resource. The growth hormones they feed the chickens make them produce eggs quicker and faster. Most of these chickens never see the light of day.
If living their lives in a small metal cage isn't bad enough, they get their beaks cut off so they won't peck each other; which they tend to do when in such small confinements.
So, they live in cages where they can't spread their wings, they get painfully debeaked, and then spend their life laying eggs. Even that behavior is controlled without mercy:
"As the hens age, their egg production naturally slows. To increase production, the hens are forced to molt (shed their feathers) through starvation or the use of low-nutrient food, until 30 percent of their body fat is lost. Then, their original diet is reinstated to restore feather growth, and consequently, egg production." source: http://www.mspca.org/programs/animal-protection-legislation/animal-welfare/farm-animal-welfare/factory-farming/chicken/eggs.html
Most chickens (like mine) can live anywhere from 8 to 25 years. Commercial chickens live until they stop laying (usually 2 years) and then they are inhumanely killed in a slaughterhouse.
It's a horrible existence that I wouldn't wish on any living creature. Yet, most people don't think twice about where their eggs come from.
Happy chickens make better eggs
Ask anyone who has had local eggs and I bet they will confirm this: chickens allowed to roam and not pumped full of chemicals have richer, better tasting eggs.
Are they healthier eggs too? There is some debate on this, but MOST local chicken farmers eagerly boast an nearly or completely organic diet for their chickens. In other words, no pestides or GMO (Genetically modified organisms) in their feed. I would say this is healthier!
What can I do?
There are several things you can do to insure you have healthier eggs from happy chickens:
- Raise your own chickens. It's not as hard as you think, but I realize it's not for everyone.
- Buy from local chicken farmers. They aren't hard to find! Check out your local farmer's market, feed store, or even Craigslist.org. And, don't be afraid to ask questions! Make sure the chickens are cage-free or free range, what their diet is, etc. Many local farmers will even invite you on a tour of their farm. This is a great opportunity for kids to see where their food comes from and what good farming practices are!
- Buy cage-free/free-range eggs from the supermarket. This isn't the best alternative; just because they say "cage-free" or "free-range" doesn't mean they aren't still debeaked or don't live in crowded conditions. However, it's a step in the right direction.