I ate eggs for YEARS as a vegetarian until 3 years ago. I was so blissfully unaware of the problems, thinking chickens were just producing eggs for me to eat – no prob. I would whip up an egg and some broccoli and call that dinner, it was so easy and I thought it was ethically safe because animals “didn’t die.”
Holy biscuits, was I was wrong.
Chickens used for egg production are among the most abused of all farm animals. In order to meet the consumer demand for eggs, hens produced 95.3 billion eggs in 2018, up 3 percent from 2017. The U.S. has 328 million commercial laying hens (as of January 2018), up 3 percent from January 2017. The daily rate of lay averaged 79 eggs per 100 layers (January 2018). On average, each laying hen produces 289 eggs per year. From hatching to slaughter, egg-laying hens are subjected to mutilation, confinement, and deprivation of the ability to live their lives as the active, social beings they are.
This is even true in “free range” operations. There is a common misconception that free range eggs involve hens roaming outside, happy and free. Yet the reality is that free range hens are actually kept in vast sheds with potentially thousands of other birds, few of which ever see daylight.
Male chicks are useless to the egg industry and so when they are born, they are killed immediately after birth. The day-old birds are either gassed or thrown into a grinder. This practice escapes animal welfare laws because the animal agriculture industry has lobbied to have a carve-out for animal husbandry practices. This practice occurs in ALL egg farming systems, even organic, even “happy egg farms.” 260 MILLION TINY BABY CHICKS are killed every year in the US.
95% of egg-laying hens spend their lives in battery cages. Battery cages commonly hold 5–10 birds, and each chicken may be given an amount of floor space equivalent to less than a sheet of letter-size paper. Constantly rubbing against and standing on wire cages, hens suffer severe feather loss, and their bodies become covered with bruises and abrasions. Chickens are intelligent, inquisitive animals, but under farmed conditions they are unable to perform any of their natural behaviors like dust-bathing, building a nest, feeding, or foraging.
Female chicks are “debeaked” at a young age, in which a portion of their beaks seared off with a hot blade. Debeaking is meant to prevent the abnormal feather-pecking that can result from the stress of confinement in a battery cage. A chicken’s beak is filled with nerves, and debeaking can result in severe and chronic pain.
Today’s hen, selectively bred and artificially induced to yield high egg production, will produce more than 250 eggs annually, compared to 100 eggs annually a century ago. In order to shock their bodies into another egg-laying cycle when production declines, hens are sometimes starved and denied any food for up to two weeks — a process known as “force molting.” There is certainly nothing natural about this process.
The normal lifespan of a hen is 6-8 years. In the egg industry, however, when hens are around 2 years old, their egg production declines and they are transported to the slaughterhouse where they are killed for flesh. They are killed by either being gassed, like the baby male chicks, or by having their legs shackled and their throats slit.
I know you don’t want to read about this, but this is how the industry is. It doesn’t matter if your eggs are organic or from a family farm – unless you raise them yourself, they all suffer the same cruelty. It took me a long time to stop eating eggs, so I understand if you’re hesitant to change. However, if you’re going to choose to eat them, you should do so with this information.
Instead of eating eggs for breakfast – try whipping up a tofu scramble instead. If you like egg sandwiches, switch to avocado toast (I know, so basic millennial). When baking, make a “flax egg“. There are so many options available, that you can easily avoid the cruelty of the egg industry!
Eggs are a really great source of vitamins and minerals because they contain much of the matter that would eventually make a baby chick. Some hens will actually eat their own eggs (I saw this happen at a farm animal sanctuary and thought it was weird but…you do you, girlfriend). If you’re looking for these nutrients, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables! I’m serious. I used to say, “but B12, though…” and now instead of contributing to an industry created on a foundation of death, I just pop a vitamin in my mouth and go about my heckin’ day!
That being said, eggs are also nutritionally controversial. There are some studies out there that say eating eggs can increase men’s risk of prostate cancer by 81%! So, if you’re concerned, maybe it’s worth looking in to.
Let me know if you have any questions on egg production, or how I made the switch (this was the hardest one for me and honestly sometimes I still miss eggs!). Happy Friday!