This Easter, help us create a better life for egg-laying hens - BC SPCA
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This Easter, help us create a better life for egg-laying hens

March 30, 2021

Eggs are in high demand during the Easter season. Many families enjoy the tradition of decorating eggs with vibrant colours, and eggs are a popular ingredient in many Easter recipes. However, did you know that in B.C., over 70% of the eggs we buy come from hens that have spent their entire lives in cages? This Easter, you can help us change that.

What’s the issue?

The majority of hens raised in cages are housed in what are called conventional cages, or battery cages. These cages are made of wire, and there are typically four to eight hens housed per cage. Each hens receives as little as 432 square centimeters of space. That’s smaller than a standard-sized piece of notebook paper! The hens are restricted from engaging in natural behaviours due to limited space and lack of enrichment. This can lead to frustration, boredom and painful feather pecking at one another.

Laying hens housed in battery cages.
Multi-level battery cages housing laying hens.

You don’t need to support this. You can choose to buy cage-free eggs instead. Every time you buy cage-free eggs, you vote with your wallet to tell the egg industry that keeping hens in cages in unacceptable!

Thankfully, conventional cages will be completely phased out of egg production in Canada by 2036. But there is much work that needs to be done in the meantime to demonstrate demand for cage-free eggs.

How to find cage-free eggs

Most grocery stores carry various types of eggs – be sure to look at egg carton labels next time you are grocery shopping. Alternatively, cage-free eggs can be found at farmers’ markets or even bought right from a local farm.

Look for ‘cage-free’, ‘free-run’ and ‘free range’ labels on egg cartons. If there is no such label, the hens were raised in cages.

Cage-free and free-run mean the hens are raised loose in a barn where they have access to nests for egg laying, dust for dust-bathing (a favourite activity of hens that keeps their feathers healthy), and space to stretch out, to name a few benefits. Free-range hens have the same benefits of free-run and cage-free, but also have access to the outdoors where they can search for bugs, enjoy the sunshine and explore a larger area. Eggs with these labels may come at a higher cost, but you can be sure they were laid by hens that were never confined to small, cramped cages.

Laying hens in a free-run (left) and free-range (right) system.

Better yet, look for an animal welfare certification

The labels to look for above only address how the hens are housed. However, animal welfare certification programs are dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals in more ways than just housing systems. These programs not only prohibit housing hens in cages, but also have strict standards to improve the welfare of hens in all aspects of their lives. This includes ensuring good health and veterinary care, continuous access to safe food and water, proper stress-free handling and safe transport.

These programs certify farms that raise their animals to higher standards of care than the minimum outlined in the Codes of Practice. These programs verify their standards are being met through third-party independent inspections. Programs that the BC SPCA recommend include Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, Global Animal Partnership and Certified Organic. When grocery shopping, look for the following labels:

These programs give you the assurance that hens are not only raised in cage-free housing systems, but also that they had plenty of space to move around, spread their wings and perform their natural behaviours.

Certified cage-free comes at a higher cost, but you can rest assured knowing you are investing in a better life for egg-laying hens when you buy them.

Looking for egg alternatives?

Eggs are the second most common food allergy in infants and young children, and some people choose to follow a diet that excludes meat, dairy, eggs, and/or any other animal products. Luckily, there are plenty of egg alternatives to choose from that will keep your baked goods tasty and moist!

Unsweetened applesauce: This is a great substitute for eggs in most recipes. You can use one-quarter cup to replace one egg.

Fruit purée: You can use mashed banana or other fruits like pumpkin and avocado to replace eggs. Use one-quarter cup of fruit purée for each egg you want to replace.

Ground flaxseeds and chia seeds: These make great egg substitutes. Mixing 1 tablespoon of either with 3 tablespoons of water can replace one egg.

Help us create a better life for laying hens

This Easter, remember these simple tips to help the BC SPCA create a better life for Canada’s laying hens:

  1. Choose eggs certified by an independent animal welfare certification program;
  2. Look for ‘cage-free’, ‘free-run’ or ‘free-range’ labels, or;
  3. Replace eggs with an egg alternative

Cage-free eggs may be brown, but they can still be used for egg decorating. In fact, most colours show up in beautiful, deep jewel tones on brown eggs. Let the brown eggs sit a bit longer in the dyes to get rich colours.

Other Easter tips to help animals

  • Bunnies are one of the first things we think of when it comes to Easter, but think carefully before adopting a rabbit into the family. It may seem fun at first, but like all pets, rabbits need proper care and housing. As Easter approaches, learn why it’s better to give chocolate bunnies as gifts, rather than real rabbits.
  • Many people have a tradition of eating fish and other seafood on Good Friday. When you buy seafood, help contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by choosing seafood that is sustainably caught or farmed. One label you can look for is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) blue fish label. Seafood with the blue MSC label is always wild, certified sustainable and traceable to a certified fishery.



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