With Easter around the corner, eggs are a popular item in the shopping carts of many Canadians. Eggs are used for many Easter traditions, such as Easter egg hunts, Easter egg decorating and baking Easter recipes. Sadly, 71% of the eggs produced in B.C. come from laying hens that have spent their entire adult lives in cages. This Easter, you can get cracking on better welfare for laying hens.
The issue with cages
The majority of laying hens raised in cages are housed in conventional cages, often called battery cages. This housing system allows for high production and efficiency. However, this comes at a cost to the hens’ welfare. Half of the eggs produced in B.C. come from hens in conventional cages.
These cages typically house four to eight hens per cage. Hens have very little space – as little as 432 square centimetres each, which is smaller than a standard-sized piece of paper! Hens cannot dustbathe, perch, forage or nest. This can cause boredom and frustration, which may lead to painful feather pecking, cannibalism and even death.
Some laying hens are raised in enriched cages. These cages offer slightly more space and may have perches, a nest box and a scratch area. However, these cages are still very restrictive, so the hens are not able to fully benefit from these enrichments.
Thankfully, conventional cages will be completely phased out of egg production in Canada by 2036, but enriched cages will still be allowed. You can avoid these welfare issues by buying cage-free eggs.
How to find cage-free eggs
1. Choose eggs certified by an independent animal welfare certification
Animal welfare certification programs are dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals. These programs prohibit housing hens in cages and have strict standards to improve the welfare of hens. This includes nutritious feed and clean water, a safe and enriching environment, veterinary care and low-stress handling and transport.
Farms are independently inspected, meaning these are programs you can trust. The BC SPCA recommends the following programs, so be sure to keep an eye out in the grocery store for their labels!
Certified eggs come at a higher cost, but you are investing in a better life for laying hens.
2. Look for ‘cage-free’, ‘free run’ and ‘free range’ labels on egg cartons
Each of these labels mean that the laying hens were not housed in cages. If there is no label, the hens were raised in cages! In a cage-free or free run housing system, the hens are raised indoors loose in a barn where they have access to nests for egg-laying, litter for dustbathing and scratching, and perches. In a free range housing system, the hens have the same benefits of free run housing, 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 they were laid by hens that were never confined to small, cramped cages.
3. Replace eggs with an egg alternative
There are plenty of egg substitutes you can use to make your favourite Easter recipes. Try replacing one egg with:
- One tablespoon ground flaxseed plus three tablespoons water
- One tablespoon chia seeds plus three tablespoons water
- One quarter cup applesauce
- One quarter cup pumpkin puree
- Half cup mashed banana
- One quarter cup yogurt
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.
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