The Humane Society and the Egg Industry Agree That Egg-Laying Hens Deserve Better Lives

Categories: Edible News, Marx

Rebecca Marx

Consumers may not like the idea of spending more for healthy menu items, but studies have found they are willing to pay a bit more for eggs that come from chickens living in humane conditions. And that's a good thing, because thanks to a new agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers, pricier eggs and happier chickens may soon be a reality.

As Nation's Restaurant News reports, the unlikely agreement was signed yesterday after years of conflict between the two groups, who are now proposing legislation that would have a major effect on the welfare of egg-laying hens. If it passes, the law -- which would be the first federal law to deal with the way animals are treated on farms -- would require farmers to house their hens in more spacious "enriched housing facilities" equipped with nesting boxes, perches, and areas for dust-bathing and scratching. Each hen would get 124 to 144 square inches of cage space, as opposed to the 67 currently mandated by the UEP.

The legislation would also require the labeling on egg cartons to disclose whether their contents come from free-range hens, cage-free hens, hens in enriched cages, or caged hens. Sales of eggs or egg products from farmers who fail to comply with the regulations would be banned.

Should the law pass, farmers will have 15 to 18 years to update their facilities, at their own cost. It's estimated that the transition will cost $4 billion, which works out to roughly $14 per hen.

Given the horrors recently documented in a video made at an industrial pig farm, the HSUS/UEP agreement sets an important precedent for the welfare of farm animals. Particularly since the factory-farm industry wants to make it illegal for undercover videographers to in any way record instances of animal cruelty in their facilities. Such legislation would in effect keep the public blissfully ignorant of the abuses perpetrated every day on farms across the country -- and thus of the true cost attached to the food on our tables.

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For a different take on this agreement, I encourage readers to check out "Is It All It's Cracked Up To Be" on Nathan and Jennifer Winograd's "All American Vegan" blog.  And always be careful when reading self-glorifying press releases from HSUS.  Fact check every word - including "the" and "a".


I agree Terry and I thought was the case since anytime the United Egg Producers agree to something, you know its bad.  Unfortunately, HSUS has caved in and has overhyped the situation in press releases. OF couse the UEP acts like they are all for this and believe in better treatment which is a ruse. The benefits of new proposal doesnt really help the plight of chickens in factory farms.  Protest and ban the United Egg Producers who REALLY stand for concentration camps for egg laying chickens and the torture of egg laying chickens.  So the price of eggs goes up 25 cents or whatever the UEP is proclaiming if real humane standards are put in effect.  Most people waste money on fast food all the time....a dozen eggs will still be a healthy and better deal despite paying several dollars. 

David Shirk
David Shirk

Americans care about animals and want to protect them fromcruelty and abuse. A few cents more per egg is asmall price to pay to ensure that egg-laying hens aren’t confined in cages sosmall they can’t even fully extend their wings. The federal legislation the eggindustry and the Humane Society of the U.S. plan to jointly work on would giveegg-laying hens access to perches, nesting boxes, and areas in which to scratcharound—improvements that would vastly improve these animals’ welfare. I supportthis proposed legislation to set standards for egg production, and I hope Congresswill too.

David Shirk

Seattle, WA

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