UCSB has followed in the footsteps of Stanford, UC Berkeley, and San Francisco State University by providing Certified Humane Cage-Free Eggs in all Dining Commons (sustainability.ucsb.edu/food- actions/). This was a huge step forward from using Battery-Cage Eggs. However, this is still going from one form of exploitation to another form of exploitation.

Cage free egg suppliers want consumers to believe that their chickens are treated humanely and live a cruelty free life. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth.

In reality, these companies advertise that their chickens are able live good lives by being allowed to run freely, spread their wings, and socialize. According to HumaneMyth.org, the environments that these hens live in are called industrial aviaries, which are large multitier buildings that hold up to tens of thousands of chickens. There’s minimal space for them to spread their wings, let alone have the ability to run. The aviaries are usually windowless and therefore the hens live their lives without ever seeing the sun or breathing fresh air. The lack of fresh air mixed with the chickens living on top of their own feces leads to severe air quality issues for both the hens and the employees.

Cage free hens face many of the same torturous practices that are used on battery cage hens. The Humane Society states that debeaking is a common tool used to stop the chickens from pecking at each other due to their high levels of stress from being kept in such cramped conditions. The farmers cut off their beaks, which are full of nerve endings, without any painkillers. Once the hen is considered unable to further produce eggs, she is transported to the slaughterhouse in a small crate without food, water, or protection from the weather. At the slaughterhouse she is fully conscious while being turned upside down, shackled, and moved down a conveyor belt that leads to having her throat slit (freefromharm.org/eggfacts).

What happens to the estimated 200 million male chicks in the United States (6 billion globally) who don’t grow large or quickly enough to be raised for meat and can’t lay eggs? According to freefromharm.org, the farmer’s methods of disposal include maceration from a high speed grinder, carbon monoxide poisoning, suffocation, and cervical dislocation. When a video in 2009 surfaced from inside an Iowa egg hatchery showing male chicks being ground up alive, the public was outraged (HuffingtonPost). “Chick culling” as the industry folks call it, is considered standard practice. The United Egg Producers’ spokesman, Mitch Head, stated “If someone has a need for 200 million male chicks, we’re happy to provide them to anyone who wants them. But we can find no market, no need.”

Freefromharm.org states that chickens are intelligent animals that can live to be fifteen years old in their natural environments. Although the intelligence levels of other beings shouldn’t dictate how we treat them, it does help to combat the negative stereotypes that are plastered onto farmed animals. The Scientific American posted a feature story in 2013 on chickens titled, “The Startling Intelligence of the Common Chicken”. They stated that the chicken “can be deceptive and cunning, that it possesses communication skills on par with those of some primates and that it uses sophisticated signals to convey its intentions. When making decisions, the chicken takes into account its own prior experience and knowledge surrounding the situation. It can solve complex problems and empathizes with individuals that are in danger.”

By ditching eggs you’re not just helping chickens, you’re also making a positive impact on your own health. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, eggs have a very high cholesterol at an average of 213 milligrams per egg, have zero dietary fiber, are devoid of cancer-fighting antioxidants, and about 60 percent of the calories in eggs are from fat (mostly saturated). Eating a plant based diet drastically reduces your risk for multiple types of cancer, specifically colorectal cancer and bladder cancer, as well as eliminating risks associated with high cholesterol, such as cardiovascular diseases (OneGreenPlanet).

There are ways to combat cruelty towards chickens, and aid in your own health, such as substituting plant based items in place of eggs during cooking and baking. These plant based alternatives include bananas, applesauce, soy yogurt, flaxseed, and tofu. Follow Your Heart has created the VeganEgg which can be used to make scrambled “eggs”, quiche, and omelets. Cutting out eggs all together is the goal, but even if you’re able to go egg free a few times a week, it would make a big difference in the lives of chickens.

Cage-free eggs are an upgrade from the use of battery cages, but they’re still inhumane and involve the usage of cruel practices. It is my hope that UCSB will acknowledge the issues surrounding the egg industry, and will continue to strive for a cruelty free campus by going egg free.

Ketia Johnson hopes you see through the promise of cage-free eggs.

“Ask the Expert: Eggs.” The Physicians Committee. N.p., 02 Nov. 2015. Web

“Behind the Myth: Cage Free Eggs.” Humane Myth. N.p., n.d. Web.

“Cage-Free vs. Battery-Cage Eggs.” The Humane Society of the United States. N.p., n.d. Web.

Capps, Ashley. “12 Egg Facts the Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know.” Free from Harm. N.p., 29 July 2014. Web.

“Food Actions.” UCSB Sustainability. N.p., n.d. Web.

Grillo, Robert. “Chicken Behavior: An Overview of Recent Science.” Free from Harm. N.p., 07 Feb. 2014. Web.

Sabloff, Nicholas. “Chicks Being Ground Up Alive Video.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 01 Sept. 2009. Web.

Smith, Carolynn L., and Sarah L. Zielinski. “The Startling Intelligence of the Common Chicken.” Scientific American. N.p., 26 Dec. 2013. Web.

Trauth, April. “5 Reasons to Stay Clear of Eggs.” One Green Planet. N.p., 16 Apr. 2014. Web.