How Free Is Free Range?
There is no inspection system for companies that label their eggs “free range”.
The popular myth that free range egg-laying hens enjoy fresh grass, bask in the sunlight, scratch the Earth, sit on their nests, and engage in other natural habits is often just that - a myth. In many commercial free range egg farms, hens are crowded inside windowless sheds with little more than a single, narrow exit leading to an enclosure, too small to accommodate all of the birds at once.
Both battery cage and free range egg hatcheries kill all male chicks shortly after birth. Since male chicks cannot lay eggs and are different breeds than those chickens raised for meat, they are of no use to the egg industry. Standard killing methods, even among free range producers, including grinding male chicks alive or throwing them into trash bags and leaving them to suffocate.
Whether kept in sheds or cages, laying hens, who can naturally live more than ten years, are considered “spent” when they are just one or two years old, and their productivity wanes. Rather than being retired, free range hens are slaughtered to make room for another shed of birds.
With no federal regulations overseeing the use of animal welfare claims of egg cartons, misleading or exaggerated claims are rampant. Consumers may be deceived by phrases such as “animal-friendly”, “organic”, or “naturally raised”, which can be found on cartons of eggs from caged hens.