The backyard egg conundrum

Jordan is Animal Aid’s Supporter Engagement Officer

Labels like ‘free range’ and ‘organic’ carry a lot of weight nowadays, especially as awareness of animal welfare as an issue is growing all the time. But these animals can still end up in cramped conditions with only limited access to the outside, and hens are typically sent to slaughter once they are no longer able to produce the amount of eggs demanded of them.

Regardless of the location of the hens from whom you get the eggs, they were bred into existence. And alongside them were bred male laying chicks who do not grow big enough or, fast enough to be considered viable for the meat industry, and neither can they lay eggs. So they are killed – a byproduct of the egg industry, whether the eggs you purchase are organic, free-range or from caged hens.

You may be tempted to try to avoid the entire conundrum altogether by purchasing ‘backyard eggs’, so called because they come from hens who are not necessarily kept for profit purposes, but perhaps as someone’s pet. At first glance, these eggs may seem ideal: they come from happier hens, who may have permanent homes.  And it is likely that these hens lead happier lives than their counterparts who live in cramped cages and overcrowded sheds. But there are some unavoidable factors that must be considered.

Laying hens nowadays have been bred to produce far more eggs than they used to: an average of 300 eggs per year, compared to the 10-20 eggs that their wild ancestors lay. This increased egg production takes a demanding toll on their bodies, which can result in calcium depletion, a myriad of reproductive diseases and early death. In order to make up for these lost nutrients, laying hens should have their eggs fed back to them.

Ultimately, there is no way to get around the egg conundrum. Instead, try new foods and replace the fats and protein you would get from an egg with nuts, seeds, whole grains and soya products. Added bonus: no bad cholesterol and you’re not purchasing or funding cruelty!