Jan 5, 2012

Fact Sheet: Chicken Eggs

We all know what eggs are, right?  The perfect ingredient for omelettes, something that you have to fiddle with to crack open and put in cake mixes.  Something that healthy people have raw.  Something that comes from chickens that roam the countryside, with farmers picking up after them.

Egg Cartons by clairegren

Eggs are, in fact, unfertilised (most of the time in commercial production) material that the chicken expels from their vent.  It is a natural part of their life; similar to how female humans experience menstruation monthly.  However, chickens in the egg industry are forced to produce eggs at a higher rate so that the most money can be made.  If their egg production falls, they will endure a forced molt in order to boost production before they are killed off.  The egg-laying hens themselves are not the only victims of the egg industry.  Twelve million male chicks are killed each year as a by-product of the egg industry.

Discarded male chicks - Animals Australia

The egg industry made $340 million dollars in 2005-06 thanks to the exploitation of 13 million chickens forced to sit there each day giving you an egg.  Chickens are intelligent creatures capable of communicating with one another, learning tricks and problem solving.  In the egg industry, they are confined to cages with 550 square centimetres per bird.  If you have a ruler near you, it's equivalent to 22cm x 25cm worth of room.  Not only this but the birds are debeaked and can suffer multiple injuries due to not being able to walk around, stretch their wings or socialise normally.

Battery Hen Australia - Source

But surely it's different on free-range farms, right?  Wrong.  They still don't need the male chicks, they still need to breed the egg layers, they still need to kill off the egg layers once they've reached the end of their useful lifespan.  Not only this but they are, obviously, still motivated by profit, which requires using the least resources possible to get the same amount of eggs.  As such, 'free-range' does not really mean what most people are led to believe and there is no legally enforceable standard in Australia currently.  In 2011, the Australian Egg Corporation started taking steps to make a legally enforceable definition of free range which would allow 20,000 chickens per hectare, which Animals Australia campaigned against.  This is not even 10x more space than current regulations for 'normal' egg production (they would have 1m x 50cm in which to roam).

Photo of a rescue by UPROAR!
If left on their own, chickens will naturally eat their own eggs in order to take the nutrients back into their body.  It takes a lot of energy and the shell uses up a lot of calcium that would be better off put back into their bodies for the next round.  If you have a chicken, break the egg open for them to eat or consider grinding up the chicken shell to feed back to them for calcium.

Want to know more about going egg free?  Check out WhyVeg or VegWeb for recipes for tofu scramble, cookies, cakes and muffins.  

Want to rescue a chicken?  The Battery Hen Adoption Project seeks to find people to adopt hens that would otherwise be killed by the egg industry.

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