More than 86 million egg-laying hens in the U.S. are now cage-free

By on April 15, 2020 with 3 Comments

New federal data released this month shows the enormous progress we have made toward the goal of ending the cruel cage confinement of farm animals in the United States. More than a quarter (26.2%) of eggs produced in our nation are now cage-free, according to official numbers published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That represents 86.5 million hens alive today who are being spared the horrors of being immobilized inside battery cages, and it’s a milestone worthy of celebration.

About 15 years ago when the Humane Society of the United States made ending cage confinement a top priority, only about 3% of the egg industry was cage-free. Working alongside other terrific animal protection groups and grassroots advocates nationwide, we launched legislative and corporate campaigns, persuading food corporations, producers and lawmakers to embrace standards that are better for hens.

More than 200 companies have since pledged to source eggs from cage-free hens (and we’re pushing these companies now to fulfill those pledges.) We also led political campaigns in five states—Michigan, California, Oregon, Washington, and Massachusetts—to ban the caging of hens and mandate that all eggs sold in these states be cage-free. Similar bills are pending in other states, and we successfully lobbied in Rhode Island to ban the use of cages within the state.

Our strategy has involved educating consumers about the tremendous suffering of farm animals, which has substantially strengthened demand for cage-free eggs. With hundreds of millions of egg-laying hens trapped in the U.S. food system at any given time, it is easy to lose sight of the suffering of individual animals. But every chicken has the capacity to suffer and feel pain, and a slew of reports and studies over the past decade show these birds are much smarter than they’re typically given credit for. As Humane Society International’s senior scientist Dr. Sara Shields and other experts explained in an All Animals article, chickens have complex communication systems, teach their young, and can even do basic math.

Imagine, then, the suffering these animals endure in a typical egg facility, where each hen is locked inside a barren wire “battery cage” with as many as 10 other birds. She has less space than the dimensions of an iPad on which to live her entire life, and not enough room to even extend her wings. This life of frustration and deprivation continues for almost two years until her egg production declines and she’s killed.

While a cage-free setting is by no means an ideal environment, it is a much better alternative to a battery cage. The standards we push for require that cage-free facilities give hens more than twice as much space per bird compared to what’s allotted in a battery cage. Typically they’re able to walk through the entire barn. In addition, the birds must be provided with enrichments that are vital to their natural behaviors, such as nest boxes, perches, as well as dust-bathing and scratching areas.

Our work continues at full speed even in these challenging times. Join us today in celebrating this important milestone for egg-laying hens. You have our assurance that we will not rest until the day when not a single farm animal is forced to endure life inside a cruel cage.

Farm Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Ya era hora estamos aprender que el baño los animales solamente nos perjudica también a nosotros

  2. Natalie says:

    Thanks for all you do🙏✌🌱

  3. Kendi Kim says:

    Changing our habits and changing our ‘way of life’ is important. But this is only a treatment of the symptoms of the underlying problem, and not a genuine and permanent cure. The ‘final solution’ we need is this: We must slowly and mindfully reduce the WORLD human population to 1 billion max (this number is just a preliminary benchmark so that there’s a clear sense of the goal). We can achieve this goal safely if we each start having no/less children. Obviously, this will require global partnership, since no one country will be willing to put down their “smoking guns” and their “source of power” unless there is trust and agreement.

    The reason why global human population reduction is the best and most permanent solution to most of the world’s greatest problems (including animal cruelty) is because we want to keep BOTH democratic capitalism AND maximin social values. The combination of 3 factors: (1) the human consumer demand that comes with democratic capitalism, (2) the implementation of maximin social policies, and (3) advancing technology and ever-increasing minimal standards of human life, are what ultimately leads to modern day factory farm practice and mass production. Sadly, it’s these mass production and factory farm practices that are creating much of the world’s other problems, including: air/water/soil pollution, climate change, animal cruelty, extinction of species, deforestation, exploitation of indigenous groups, poverty, powerful disease strains, pandemics (it’s easier to social distance if there’s less humans in cities), plastic gyres, garbage mountains, overload of environmental toxins/carcinogens, depletion of natural resources, massive oil spills, degradation of the beauty of natural landscapes, wars (for natural resources and for space), and more.

    My view is that it’s easier to reduce our numbers, than it is to change our natures. And if we take control of the way in which we reduce our numbers, then we don’t have to wait for pandemics or disasters or a global apocalypse to destroy the human story.

    A final word: To be ‘superior’ to the other animals does not mean that we somehow “deserve” to be treated better than the other animals. To be ‘superior’ to the other animals just might mean that we have MORE of a reason to treat the other animals well, and as they ALL should be treated — as individuals.

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