The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) sent me this “Give a Cluck About Hens” infographic about the treatment of hens that are raised for their eggs and why it’s important to chose cage-free eggs. Take a look.

I think this infographic makes a very good argument about why you wouldn’t want to buy eggs from hens that were kept in cages, but I’d like to a take moment to discuss what cage-free means.

According to The Human Society cage-free systems “generally offer hens a significantly improved level of animal welfare than do battery cage systems, though the mere absence of cages sometime isn’t enough to ensure high welfare.”

Cage-free hens can move around, spread their wings, and use a nest to lay their eggs. However, cage-free does not guarantee that hens will ever have the ability to go outside. If the term cage-free conjures up a picture of hens strolling around a barnyard, in true free-range fashion, you have the wrong picture in your head.

It’s because of ambiguous terms like cage-free, which are meant to be helpful to consumers but mean different things to different people, that the idea to “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” becomes very important.

If you want your eggs to come from hens who are not only cage-free, but also truly free to be able to roam outside and get fresh air, your best bet is to get them from some place where you can ask. It may be your supermarket, if the market has a high awareness of where their foods are sourced from. And, I do realize that for some people their only option is the supermarket with a limited selection. If that selection has only conventional eggs or ones marked cage-free, choosing the cage-free option is definitely the better of the two. If all consumers reached for the cage-free, there would be no incentive for keeping hens in cages.

However, if you have the ability to ask at a co-op, farmers market or roadside stand, it would be great if you could get more information by asking, “How were the hens that produced these eggs raised?”

Being cage-free is important for the well being of hens, but remember it’s only one component of the hen’s well being.

Are you aware of how the hens that produce the eggs that you use are treated?

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