This one is for the girls, for the hens, for Bluebell my first ever chicken (pictured)
If you are new to being an Ethical omnivore it helps to focus on one thing at a time or make small regular changes rather than try to tackle it all at once.
Starting January 2018 let’s focus on eggs. 48% of eggs produced in the UK are still from colony caged hens, that is a huge problem for hens and far from ideal for human health issues.
Colony (also called enriched) caged hens eggs are unethical. The hen is locked in cages for the whole of their life unable to perform natural behaviours all for the sake of laying 1 egg per day. Saving you from 0p-6p-15p per egg (based on supermarket value v free range eggs and value v organic). Sometimes there is no difference in price depending on the brand.
Have you ever met a chicken? They are wonderful, intelligent, sensitive animals. They are highly active in a truely free range environment, spending all day roaming peaking and scratching for food, running, flapping their wings, dust bathing. They learn to come when they are called within days (a lot more than can be said for most people’s dogs).
Here’s what you can do:
- Check your boxed eggs – boxed eggs have to be labelled as caged, free range, organic etc. they are stamped with a code. Only buy free range and ideally organic.
- Check eggs in products (cakes, pasta, custard, mayo, quiche etc) – Manufacturers are choosing to state where they are free range. If it doesn’t say free range it isn’t.
- Ask if eggs are free range when you eat out or in the cafe. Don’t be afraid to raise it and be prepared to skip the eggs if they are from caged hens. Take your custom elsewhere.
The egg industry in general has a lot of negatives. The males chicks are killed as they are hatched, surplus to requirements. The hens are slaughtered as soon as their production drops off (around 72 weeks). Even free range systems are not ideal, but avoiding caged hen eggs goes a long way to addressing the problem. It would make a huge difference to hens lives if everyone turned their beaks up at the junk egg that is the caged hen egg.
The ultimate is to keep your own chickens or buy from local chicken keepers if you can. If time and space allows they make great pets. We choose to only eat our own chickens eggs and keep our chickens into old age. I realise this is a luxury but that is my personal approach to the egg dilemma.
Some supermarkets (e.g Waitrose are caged egg free). This means that they don’t sell any caged hen eggs boxed or in their products.
The Ethical omnivore.