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Celebrating World Egg Day - Greener Choices
Celebrating World Egg Day

October 9th was the 20th annual World Egg Day. Rather than celebrate by sharing facts about eggs, we prepared some facts about hens that lay eggs. We also prepared a guide to various labels and what they tell you about how the hens were raised.
There are roughly 273 million hens in the U.S. producing eggs for people to eat. More than three-quarters live on farms with 100,000 or more birds. According to the American Egg Board, there are also approximately 62 egg-producing companies with more than 1 million laying hens and 17 companies with more than 5 million hens.

The vast majority of egg-laying chickens (93.6%) spend their entire lives in a cage shared with others. Each bird is generally given 67 to 86 square inches of space – as little as the size of a sheet of paper. Throughout her entire life, she can stand upright, but taking steps or flapping her wings is impossible. Cage-free laying hens make up 6.4% of the laying hen population. A henhouse without cages is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean the chickens had ample room to roam and engage in natural scratching and pecking behaviors inside the henhouse.

LABEL 3rd-party verified? No cages Meaningful outdoor access No routine antibiotic use No beak trimming
Natural
Vegetarian-Fed
Omega-3
Farm Fresh
United Egg Producers Certified
Grade AA, Grade A or Grade B
Cage-Free
Free-Range
Free-Roaming
No added hormones
No antibiotics
American Humane Certified *
Certified Humane
USDA Organic
American Humane + Free-Range *
Certified Humane + Free Range
Pastured or Pasture-raised
American Humane + Pastured *
Certified Humane + Pastured
Animal Welfare Approved
Demeter Biodynamic
The label does not mean this Likely means this but not verified The label means this and is verified

Federal Law

Hens can be raised in cage-free houses with tens of thousands of other birds, and in a henhouse with perches, the egg industry recommends giving each hen 1 square foot of floor space for a white hen or 1.2 square feet of floor space for a brown hen. That’s roughly the size of two sheets of paper for each bird. When they’re raised in crowded henhouses with thousands of other birds, hens are susceptible to disease and parasites, and disease can spread quickly. Rather than build a healthy system by improving hygiene and animal welfare, egg producers can prevent disease by adding antibiotics to the chickens’ feed. Chickens can also be given antibiotics on a routine basis to promote growth and increase egg production.

Federal Law

Another unintended consequence of crowded indoor confinement is feather pecking. In tightly-packed henhouses and without the opportunity to engage in natural pecking behaviors, chickens are likely to peck at each other. Feather pecking can lead to serious injury, even cannibalism. Rather than address the root cause of this aggressive behavior and give chickens more room and the opportunity to peck for insects and seeds outdoors, egg producers will routinely trim each hen’s sharp beak to minimize the damage. Ideally, chicken producers give birds access to a spacious and vegetated outdoor run or pasture. This gives the animals access to fresh air, sunlight, and the opportunity to engage in natural behaviors such as dustbathing and foraging (scratching-and-pecking).