I was recently asked whether free range eggs were "ok". I am not quite sure what the person meant by "ok", but I think they wanted to know whether I still considered it to be cruel to eat free range eggs. I do. There are many reasons that I will not eat any eggs and why I think you also should not eat eggs.
1) Free range is a crock of shit. The egg industry wants you to picture a nice little farmhouse where chickens come and go and nest in nice clean bundles of straw. In fact, I saw a Perdue commmerical today where they showed their chickens living in a nice little farm with lots of room. In the real world, free range just means that they are not living in cages. This is definitely better, but is still awful for the chickens. In general, they don't get to go outside. They are still overcrowded with very little room to move around. The standards for free range are so lax that if there is a little window in the barn or a little porch where chickens can go outside, farmers can call the chickens free range. No one is checking to see if the chickens ever do actually get to go outside. The conditions for these chickens are still horrific. Don't be fooled by commercials by companies like Perdue. Read this article for more information.
2) Debeaking. Because chickens live in such crowded conditions and they normally peck at each other to eastablish a pecking order (which would be fine if they had some space) chicken farms de-beak the chickens. This means that they slice off the beak of the chicken with a searing hot blade. This is extrememly painful for the chicken. Some even die from this procedure. They do not get any pain-killers. They do this to the chicks when they are still tiny babes. More on debeaking.
3) Male baby chicks are discarded or ground up for fertilizer. There are two type of chickens bred in this country. The chickens have been genetically modified to produce one type that grows really fast (broilers) and another type that lays lots of eggs and does not get very big (layers). When layers have chicks, half of them are male. The male baby chicks are useless to egg producers and they will not grow fast enough or big enough to make broilers so they are discarded. They are simply thown away in big black trash bags full of baby chicks (just born) or they are tossed live into a grinder and are ground up for fertilizer.
4) Hens are still sent to slaughter after their egg production drops off. They become pet food. Being a vegetarian is not enough here if your purpose is to prevent animals from being killed. These hens are still killed. They do not move to some nice farm in the country to live out the rest of their lives. They are sent to slaughter just like broiler chickens.
This is why I do not eat eggs and why free range eggs are not a suitable option. Most foods can be made with egg substitutes (enerG, or flax seeds). You do not need eggs.