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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

The Dark Side Of Sunny-Side Up

Grisly undercover footage from The Humane Society reveals, yet again, what can happen to hens in the absence of governmental oversight.

brown eggs in carton

Photo: Pietro Izzo (Flickr)

Ask around at your local farmers market for free-range eggs. They may not be pearly white, but they will be more flavorful and, more importantly, humane.

Lot Of Omelets, Lots Of Birds

According to a report issued by United Egg Producers in October, the average American consumed around 246 ovums last year.

Do a little number crunching with WolframAlpha, and you’ll find this means the nation as a whole gobbled some 76.5 billion eggs in 2011 — enough yolk and albumen to fill the world’s largest supertanker five times over!

While the immaculate ellipsoids you find at the grocery store might look like the creations of some alien machine, it’s important to remember that our eggs actually come from the U.S.’s 280 million living, breathing hens.

54 to 58 Square-Inch Cages

Of these 280 million egg-layers, the vast majority are housed in gigantic indoor facilities, where miserable conditions can take root in the absence of adequate governmental oversight.

An undercover video released today by The Humane Society offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into conditions at a Kreider Farms egg factory.

The footage is disturbing: hens crammed into 54 to 58 square-inch cages, mummified carcasses strewn amongst the living, a thick layer of dead flies covering the floor, and the list goes on.

Suddenly that ketchup-slathered scramble’s a little bit hard to swallow.

Kreider Farms spokesperson, Dave Andrews, insists the depiction is a distortion and not representative of how the company treats its flock generally.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

The Humane Society’s exposé comes on the heels of the passage of two new state laws that prohibit would-be whistle blowers from bringing recording equipment surreptitiously into factory farms located in Iowa and Utah.

Industry execs frame the controversial legislation in terms of ‘criminal defamation’, but opponents of so-called ‘ag-gag’ measures worry about what will happen to livestock should farming practices grow even more opaque.

Similar bills are currently being mulled in Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Tennessee.

What You Can Do

Even though it’s impossible to know what’s really going on in the egg supply chain as a whole, there are some things you can do to ensure your own eggs are cruelty-free.

The first (and easier) option is to get acquainted with someone in your community who raises hens in a manner consonant with your ideals and who would be willing to sell you a dozen eggs every couple of weeks or so. (Hint: ask around at your local farmers market.)

The second — albeit more involved — option is to do some research and get laying hens of your own. It’s not as daunting an endeavor as you might think, and those deviled eggs are so much better when you know the chickens that laid them are fit and happy.

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Ben Alford

Ben Alford works in Indiana Public Media's online dimension and holds an M.A. from Indiana University Bloomington's History and Philosophy of Science department. When not vegetating in front of a computer screen or geeking out over a good book, he can found outside exploring.

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  • Anonymous

    Anyone concerned about egg industry cruelty should OPPOSE the HSUS-UEP legislation (HR 3798) that would keep laying hens IN battery cages forever, while eliminating the rights of voters! The bill would allow the egg industry to avoid ever having to answer the public’s call to eliminate cages. The fact that Kreider, an egg factory with clearly inhumane practices, states that they support HR 3798 and have “the least to do to comply” with the bill’s standards should be recognized as a huge mark AGAINST the bill. Check outhttp://www.StopTheRottenEggBill.org to learn more and contact your representatives to OPPOSE this legislation.

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