At some point in our lives, we have all heard about the horrors of factory farming. Whether you have actively chosen to take a stand against this inhumane method of farming, or you have chosen to turn a blind eye and go on enjoying your chicken sandwich with no regard for where it came from, this post should get your thinker thinking.

Let’s talk battery cages. These unnecessary systems of housing for laying hens confine hens into a space no larger than an 8 by 10 sheet of paper. These systems deny hens the ability to exhibit natural behaviors such as perching, foraging, scratching, and pecking. The space restriction causes limited movement which has shown to cause major reductions in bone strength and density which can lead to osteopenia and bone breakages. The absence of perches not only leads to a physiological blow to the animal, but it also prevents the hen from being able to escape another bird in the event of a hierarchical row. The lack of refuge for subordinate hens leads to injury and sometimes even death. Overgrown claws are another cause for concern with hens housed in battery cages. Without claw-trimming surfaces the hens have no method of performing personal maintenance.

How do we take steps towards being more humane? Well, aside from the majority of americans switching to an alternative diet (which we will cover in a later blog), the first step in improving conditions for laying hens is to promote an overall switch from battery cages to furnished cage systems.

These furnished cage systems will allow the hens more space to move around and also provide perches, scratchpads, and enough room to express foraging behaviors. Though furnished cage systems are still confining, it is a significant step towards improving the welfare of these birds.

Who has already made the switch?

California egg producers are on track to convert all of their caging systems to furnished cages by the end of 2015, and most of Europe has already put the law into practice.

Why should we care?

Undercover animal rights activists have stepped foot on several farms and found dead chickens laying among living laying hens. Flies, maggots, rotting chickens, and waste matter all dripping down onto the eggs that we eat before they are rinsed before reaching the market. We should care where our food comes from, and be able to trust that the animals received the best care possible while they were alive.

Let’s take steps towards healthier and happier chickens and practices, and live more like the civilized society we claim to be.

What do you think? Feel free to post comments and share your opinion on the issue of factory farming. Have you made a dietary switch due to the conditions in which your food is raised? Would you eat more meat and animal products if you could feel good about how the animals were treated during their lifetime?

If you are interested in learning more about battery cages and laying hens, take a few minutes to read the attached paper written by myself and two of my collegues. Laying Hens

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