Free range chicken farming versus commercial factory farming- which is better? These are the two most prominent ways that eggs end up at the local grocery store or farmers market. The first obviously the friendlier of the pair and the latter, can be an ugly reality.
By definition, free-range chickens are said to be those that are allowed access to freely roam the outdoors. On the total opposite spectrum, a factory farmed bird is kept in a battery cage for it’s lifespan with little room to walk around or interact naturally with other birds. Because of a diet high in calcium to increase egg production and lack of exercise in the cramped quarters, many chickens become frail, weak and are trampled to death by the other birds.
It wasn’t always this way. Before the industrial revolution there wasn’t really a need for a farmer to create large amounts of eggs for only one or two big corporations. Chickens were raised to produce for the family that cared for them and perhaps a few other families in the same community.
But as the nation’s economic wealth grew, so did our dependance on farmers which eventually evolved to grocery stores. Farmers wanted bigger flocks to create bigger payouts to companies so the demand for eggs from a single farm grew. Unfortunately, when you have large flocks of birds confined together there is more of a chance that some will get sick and spread infection, especially if not taken care of properly. It was around this time, in the early 20th century that battery cage use started. It was reported that cage flocks produced higher egg production and were overall healthier than previous traditional flocks. What ended up happening is that overtime the caged birds developed a painful condition called cage layer osteoporosis which makes the birds bones more brittle and susceptible to breaks.
Free range farming on the other hand, if done properly is not only friendlier on the flock itself but creates better tasting eggs. Most free range farms are organic which also offers the consumer or farmer more benefits from the produce. Many consumers are already looking for eggs labelled free range at the stores and will even go the extra step to pay for certified organic eggs. Organic free range chicken eggs are bigger and people enjoy the taste of their orange yolks. This is because organic chicken farms are not only free range but they also do not feed the birds any genetically modified crops or feed containing animal by-products. Free range birds are known to eat more of a variety of fresh greens and insects which contributes to the great tasting egg.
So why support factory farming? Why continue to create a demand for a produce that creates such horrible conditions for a flock of farmed birds? Consider this the next time you head out to purchase eggs. It all comes down to quality over quantity. Which will you choose?