Buying the Eggs You Want

Do you know what all the claims on the labels mean?


Dairy Queen announced this month that it intends to use only cage-free eggs in its restaurants by the end of 2025.  The restaurant chain joins a growing list of companies who have made similar commitments. These include McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Costco, Subway, and many others.

More than nine out of 10 eggs are still laid by hens that are confined for their lifetimes in battery cages, typically five to eight hens to a cage. The cages are arrayed in “batteries”—rows of cages stacked one atop another. Within each cage, every hen has about 67 square inches of floor space, less than the size of a page of binder paper. That’s not enough room for them to stretch their wings or engage in other activities that are natural for hens—like nesting, perch­ing, and rolling around on the ground (dustbathing).

It’s also not enough room for them to lay their eggs like uncaged chickens can.

What hens want.

“The birds suffer from extraordinary frustration on a daily basis,” says Paul Shapiro of The Humane Society of the United States. “Chickens in nature have a very strong desire to lay their eggs in a private, dark, secluded nesting area, but battery cages don’t al­low them to do that.”

A far smaller num­ber of laying hens live in indoor “cage-free” houses, where they can walk around, spread their wings, lay their eggs in nests, and, in some facilities, perch and dust-bathe. But most cage-free hens aren’t free to wander outside.

A big factor in companies switching to cage-free eggs was the new California law enacted last year that required all eggs sold in the state come from hens that have enough space to extend their wings and turn around freely. Other states may follow California’s lead.

If you buy your eggs from a supermarket, do you know what all the claims on the labels mean?

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