A typical supermarket egg, produced from hens kept in battery cages, may be the most ethically objectionable of all animal-based foods. In many cases these hens are crowded into tiny cages, and have no ability to move freely or even to spread their wings. Worst of all, since it takes about 30 hours for a hen to lay an egg, each day of confinement and misery yields pathetically little food. Every hen raised in a commercial environment—free range and factory farmed alike—is destined to be slaughtered once their egg output diminishes past a certain point. Most hens are slaughtered by their second birthday, which is less than half their natural lifespan.
Cage-free certainly represents a big step up over battery eggs, but even cage-free is problematic. The substantial added cost of cage-free eggs may not always be accompanied by comparably substantial improvements in animal welfare. And just as with battery hens, every commercially-raised cage-free or free-range hen will be slaughtered once her egg yields declines past a certain point. Additionally, nearly all cage-free egg farms purchase their chicks from the very same hatcheries that battery egg farms patronize. And for every female chick purchased, a male chick is gassed, smothered, or ground up alive. In the United States alone, more than 200 million unwanted male chicks are killed every year, within a day of pecking their way out of their egg shells.
Luckily, it’s incredibly easy to avoid eggs. Vegan cookbooks prove that you can have incredible pancakes, muffins, cookies, cakes, and pies without ever resorting to eggs. If you would like to cut back on eggs or eliminate them from your diet, check out our Guide to Egg-Free Eating.