Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Egg is an Egg? Part Two

Last week I wrote about different brands of eggs and their nutritional facts and came to the conclusion that nutrition-wise the "expensive, all-natural, omega-3" eggs are no different than the "bargain brand" plain old white eggs (depending on their diet, which I touch on later.)

I also compared "free range" eggs to "pastured" eggs.

If you missed that post, the link is below.

An Egg is an Egg? Part One

Today I want to touch on a few more subjects.
  • United Egg Producers
  • "Cage Free" is no better than "caged" in my opinion.
  • An egg layer's diet
When I first started looking at all the different egg cartons that I have received from friends, I noticed that a few of them, but not the majority, had a little advertising claiming to be "United Egg Producers Certified." Not having the foggiest idea as to what that meant, I went to the website in the advertisement.

United Egg Producer Certified, www.uepcertified.com

Here is a little literate from the UEP website:

The United Egg Producers "wrote a set of industry guidelines titled 'Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks.' These guidelines were first introduced as a voluntary program in 2002 for the industry to implement when requested by their customers, since then they have evolved into a committed program called "United Egg Producers Certified."

The United Egg Producers Certified program standards are the strictest in the industry and are part of our ongoing commitment to providing American consumers the safest, best quality and most economical eggs in the world. Our farmers commit to these strict guidelines and are audited by the USDA and Validus for compliance on 100 percent of their farms before they are allowed to place the United Egg Producers Certified seal of approval on their egg packaging."

I spent quite a bit of time at this website and found it very interesting. They defend the cage production of eggs very well in my opinion, but I still do not agree with the practice. I believe some of their "advantages," but still feel like their "advantages" are not worth the "disadvantages" which they do not present.

They compare the small backyard flocks of 1940 to today's cage chickens. They make the point that the backyard chickens were "continuously subjected to diseases, freezing, predators, poisoning, and infighting, had a precarious existence and a normal mortality rate as high as 40% per year. Average yearly egg production was little more than 100 eggs per year of which many were contaminated by the microbes from poultry diseases." What we need to keep in mind is that these flocks were maintained by mostly city folk during WWII in order to feed their families. I wonder if these "city dwellers" really knew how to care for their flocks and did they even have the proper facilities and resources to do so? My guess is that they did not.

I believe that people today have a greater resource of educational material in order to raise healthy flocks. I think that today's technology and advancements overcome the problems of the 1940 small backyard flocks so why aren't they comparing today's backyard flocks with their caged systems?

One argument that defends the huge caged systems is that we can't possible "feed the world" without these industrialized systems. This may be true for some parts of the world, but we can feed more than we do with our family farms. Raising eggs layers is not a rocket science and does not require a huge amount of specialized equipment or capital. Can you imagine if all the people who were able to raise a small flock of egg layers actually did, how many eggs we would have? But now I'm getting off on another subject which I wasn't going to address in this post, so back to the main subject.

I believe that the United Egg Producers are trying to change the practices of the egg industry for the better. I read through some of their 36 page guidelines and think that many of their practices are not ideal, but better than the current practices I have read about.

I found it very interesting that out of all the cartons that I had only two were UEP Certified. They were:

  • Golden Farm Fresh Eggs
  • Great Day Naturals All Natural Omega-3 Eggs

Okay lets switch gears and talk about "Cage Free." "Cage Free" is no better than "caged" in my opinion. Cage free simply means that the hens are not housed in a "cage" but are raised in a confined containment on a barn floor. They are still in a hot, smelly, crowded cage, it's just bigger and doesn't have individual partisans. Oh, and nesting boxes are provided. I wonder how often the litter on the floor is changed? How much manure is allowed to accumulate? In this regard, I wonder if the caged system is better because the manure "drops" through the cage and the hen is not "living" in it. Many people envision "cage free" chickens running around doing what chickens do when they are raised on the farm. Not so people! These chicken houses full of "cage free" chickens are very crowded. Just look at some of the pictures on the United Egg Producers website.

Here is the guidelines for floor space per hen in a "cage free" system according to the UEP. "A minimum of 1.5 sq. ft. per hen must be allocated to allow normal behavior. In a house with perching/roosting area over a droppings pit/belt, the minimum space can be 1.2 sq. ft. for Brown Egg Layers and 1.0 sq. ft. for White Leghorns. In multi-tier systems with feeders and drinkers on overhead perches/platforms, and in which the overhead perches/platforms provide sufficient space for at least 55% of the hens to perch, then a minimum of 1.0 sq. ft. of available space must be provided."

The guidelines for "caged" hens is "minimum of 67 square inches per hen for White Leghorn hens and 76 square inches for Brown Egg Layers." 67 square inches = .47 sq. ft. and 76 square inches = .53 sq. ft. The square inches sound like a lot more room than the square feet. I wonder if that is why they are using square inches here and not square feet like they did in the "cage free" requirements? That's not very much room folks, for either system, cage free or caged!!

Now on to the egg layers diet. As Michelle commented on the last blog about this "Bargain eggs are typically produced with commercial non-vegetarian feed, the meat for which is centrifuge extracted from commercial trimmings & bones. In my opinion, such eggs are a health risk to consumers, due to prion disease risks and the hen's poor nutrition." I agree Michelle! Who wants an egg that is produced from a hen that is fed a diet of things we don't want to consume ourselves? Seriously. Why do we feel like we need to feed animals a diet that God never intended for them to eat in the first place? Are we saying we know better than God? Chickens are omnivores, yes, but in the wild they eat seeds, insects and even larger animals such as lizards and mice. Their natural diet does not consist of a mixture of ground up eyeballs, anuses, bones, feathers and euthanized dogs. Sorry I had to say that, but it's the truth. Some egg laying hens are fed a supplement of this! Most animals that are in the industrialized food system spend the entirety of their short lives in factories eating recycled meat and animal fat. So make sure if you are buying eggs at the store, although I can't imagine why you are, that the carton says that they are fed a vegetarian diet.

Well, I think I'll just let you think about that for now. I need to get some work done around here. The first batch of chicks are coming on Friday, all 200 of them and I still have a few things to get done before then.

If you haven't entered the giveaway for the Emerilware Cast Iron 10" Square Grill Pan and the Sassy Cook'n Hot Chicks Oven Mitt and Potholders Set you'd better saddle up your horse and do it. Here's the link to that post if you missed it!

My First Official Giveaway! Whoo Hoo!!


  1. The United Egg Producers standards allow tremendous abuse. See www.EggLabels.com to see all the cruelty the program allows.

  2. I checked out the above site left by the anonymous comment. It is a site maintained The Humane Society of the United States.

  3. Great post on Backyard Chicken. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas.