Think cage-free eggs are more ethical? It’s not that simple

The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures. In the social-media-fuelled world of ethical eating, feelings often trump facts, and buzzy terms like ‘free-range’ may not mean what you think. Ann Hui reports Last September, the world’s biggest burger chain announced that it wants the 120 million eggs used each year in Egg McMuffins and other breakfast items in Canada to come exclusively from hens not confined to a cage. The news came as a surprise not only to competitors of McDonald’s but to some who work for the company, too. It also had a cascading effect. In the months since, almost every major fast-food chain in North America has made a similar pledge to go cage-free. In October, it was Starbucks. In December, Subway. In January, Wendy’s. Even Tim Hortons followed suit: Back in 2012, it had vowed to source more eggs from hens in “furnished cages,” which are bigger and nicer than the infamous “battery” type used for 90 per cent of the 40 million boxes of eggs produced in Canada every year. But then Tims changed owners – and its mind. In February, its parent comp...

If consumers knew how farmed chickens were raised, they might never eat their meat again | Environment

The year 2012 marked a leap forward for animal welfare in the European Union. Farmers were no longer allowed to keep egg-laying hens in barren battery cages smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. Instead, the minimum requirement now is that hens are kept in a cage the size of an A4 sheet of paper, with an extra postcard-sized bit of shared space that allows them to scratch and nest. These are known as enriched cages. Animal welfare campaigners would like to see them abolished too, saying they barely make a difference to the birds’ ability to express their natural behaviour and live free from stress. Around half of the eggs we eat are still produced in caged systems. Full debeaking to prevent hens pecking each other is no longer allowed either, but beak clipping is still permitted in egg-laying hens. Their primary sensory organ is typically clipped at a day old, whether caged or free range. Progress here is that farmers must now use infrared lasers to carry out the process rather than the hot blade of previous days. It is cleaner but remains painful to the bird. Industrial egg-laying hens have been bred to produce more and faster, laying about 320 eggs over a life span of about 72 we...