Monday, November 6, 2006

Are Free Range Eggs OK? No.

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.


  1. i posted to lj and then realised that you probably don't get that... so i thought i would expand here...

    i'm interested in whether or not a lot of vegetarianism and veganism is based on how evil corporate farming is. how do you feel about a family that has chickens in their back yards? how do you feel about animal husbandry in general if practiced humanely...

    i know that we probably conflict on the level of which we feel things are humane.

    to become vegan/vegetarian i think i would have more difficulty giving up non-food items... leather, wool (obviously)... i would be worried about dyes that companies use for clothing, and other hidden non-veggie processes like that sugar thing... further, medicines are i think universally tested on animals before being used by the public.

    it would be hard for me to find a line once i started to go down that road and i feel like i would end up just living in a bubble.

    also, i don't have a problem with eating an animal that has had a good life. so for me being veggie would mostly just be a protest of corporate farming... i would be much happier if i were to have my own farm because i would know that the animals are well cared for. i think the closer i get to the source of what i eat the better. i keep on thinking i need to find a farm that i can buy my meat from, so i can check it out and know the quality of life for the animals who are there. i would certainly be looking out for chickens with no beaks! i really do need to find a farm i can get eggs from, cause that shit is just wrong. _wrong_ i tell you. i can't believe they cut the beaks off. it makes me want to vomit.

    i also have to ask my beekeeper friend about the honey thing. i really do think they just make them work a little extra hard and the bees don't die. but i'm not sure. you would think it would make it prohibitively expensive as a hobby if they had to buy bees every year.

    anyway. i'm totally thrilled that you are writing about this in your blog. i'm fascinated about the process of becoming vegan. i really doubt i could ever actually pull it off, and i'm pretty sure i wouldn't want to... but we can all be more respectful of animals in our lives and these discussions help me make better decisions!


  2. Veganism is most definitely a boycott of the meat industry. I am horrified by the articles that I read about the treatment of animals.

    I would be happier if the animals were treated better, but I personally would still not be able to eat them and would still advocate for others to abstain because I feel that we don't have the right to take another animal's life for our use (esp. when we don't need to). I definitely straddle the fence a bit on this issue. On one hand, I want animals to be treated better, but on the other hand, I don't want them killed at all.

    I guess I don't really understand why humans (americans) feel it is ok to eat pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens... but not ok to eat cats and dogs. Is it because they are cuddly and cute? Pigs and turkeys are as smart as dogs and cats and feel pain the same way.

    It is really hard to find the line. Tires aren't vegan, but we have to drive.

    Honey is my next post. I have already put in a placeholder for it. I'd love to hear a beekeepers perspective. I did find some links on the internet:

    I am glad you are reading it. I don't want to piss anyone off or become a "militant" vegan in anyone's eyes. Posting here at least makes it a choice for someone to read it.

  3. You're right about lax regulations but there are some free range egg farmers who do things right.
    Our hens are never locked up - each flock is protected from predators by Maremma dogs. We have small flocks of around 150 which means there is no need to de-beak and we don't kill our birds at the end of the laying season. We keep all our hens into the second oaying season and then sell them to people who want backyard hens - where they will continue laying for three, four or more years.
    Please have a look at our website
    and our blog at

  4. Thanks for the response Phil. You are unfortunately not the norm, at least not in the United States.

    Farming as a whole was a much better industry when it was run by individuals who had few enough animals that they could properly care for them and give them human living conditions (back before the 50s). These huge companies have come in and industrialized farming. The only thing that matters to them is the dollar. The poor animals live in such horrible conditions and often recieve no veterinary care when they are ill.

    I definitely think that if people are going to buy and eat eggs that they should get them from a farm that they "know" (a farm where they can go and look for themselves and see how the chickens are raised). As a vegan, I have found that I can live without eggs and get all the nutrients that I need so I really advocate that people don't need to eat animal products at all, but not everyone is willing to do that.

    What do you do with the baby male chicks on your farm?