Many of us seem to know eggs as healthy nutritious breakfasts, and have that image in our minds of happy chickens grazing on green pastures as many egg companies advertise. But it’s about time we address the truth about how the egg industry functions, the health aspects of egg consumption, as well as the environmental impact the egg industry has on our planet. In this article, I will be uncovering the truth that the egg industry does’t want you to know.
Misery from Day One
Chicks are born in large incubators and will often never see their mothers. Shortly after birth, the males and females are separated. The female’s head to a life in the egg industry and if he is a boy he would would have been born and killed. Since they can’t lay eggs or be sold for meat, they’re worthless to the egg industry and are treated like trash. Literally. They’re either tossed into trash bags to suffocate or ground up alive. (1)
The egg industry kills millions of newborn baby chicks every single day; more than 260 million are killed every year in the U.S. alone. (2) Eggs sold under organic, free-range, and humane labels, and even chicks sold to backyard chicken keepers, also have their origins in these killing hatcheries. (2) So you’re probably wondering why aren’t they just sent to the meat industry? Well, a chick in the egg industry will be much smaller and won’t grow fast enough for the meat industry to maximize profit.
They are Innocent Conscious Beings:
Chicken’s exhibit intelligent behavior within just a few hours of hatching. (3)
Newborn chicks are more intelligent, alert, and aware of their environment than human toddlers, according to recent scientific studies. (4) In fact, many traits that were previously thought to be exclusive to human primate communication, cognition and social behavior have now been discovered in chickens.
Mutilation & Starvation, A Common Practice:
At just a few days old even on organic, free range farms newborn chicks typically have 1/3 to 2/3 of their extremely sensitive beaks seared off without pain killers. Debeaking is standard practice in the egg industry, including on most cage-free and free-range egg farms. A chicken’s beak is the sensory equivalent of a human fingertip — loaded with blood vessels, pain receptors, and free nerve endings that facilitate food detection in the wild.(5) Many birds, unable to eat because of the pain, or die from dehydration and weakened immune systems.
They are sent to egg farms, where, due to decades of genetic manipulation and selective breeding, they produce 250 to 300 eggs per year. In nature, wild hens lay only 10 to 15 eggs annually. (6,7) Like all birds, they lay eggs only during breeding season and only for the purpose of reproducing.
The unbelievable living conditions:
Nearly all egg-laying hens in the world, including the 300 million egg-laying hens in the U.S. live on factory farms in long, windowless sheds containing rows of stacked “battery cages.” Most egg-laying hens in the U.S. live on factory farms in long, windowless sheds containing rows of stacked “battery cages.” Up to 10 hens are packed together in one wire cage roughly the size of a file drawer. Hens who become sick do not receive veterinary care—at best, they are
euthanized; at worst, ignored and left to die slowly.(8) The birds are crammed so closely together that these normally clean animals are forced to urinate and defecate on one another. The stench of ammonia and feces hangs heavy in the air, and disease runs rampant in the filthy, cramped sheds. Many birds die, and survivors are often forced to live with their dead and dying cage mates, who are sometimes left to rot.(9)
Starvation- “More bang for the Buck”:
They are put through a process known as ‘forced-molting’ which involves starving the hens for up to 18 days, keeping them in the dark, and denying them water. This shocks their bodies into a rapid, intense egg-laying cycle. To trigger the physiological shock of the forced molt, University of California poultry researcher, Donald Bell, recommends the removal of all food for no less than five days and as long as fourteen days. This allows egg producers to get the most eggs out of their birds, or the ‘best bang for their buck’.
The newest form of force-molting to achieve the highest egg production from hens is done by feeding the hens nutrient-deficient filler foods, rather than complete starvation. This is not a problem for egg producers, because like all industrially farmed birds, hens are not protected by the Animal Welfare Act or the Federal Humane Slaughter Act. (10)
A Brutal Ending
Like the meat and dairy industries, the egg industry is a slaughter industry. By the time they are sent to slaughter, roughly 29 percent of the hens are suffering from broken bones resulting from neglect and rough treatment.While their natural lifespan is about 8-10 years, after two years in these conditions, the hens’ bodies are exhausted, and their egg production drops. These “spent” hens are shipped to slaughterhouses, where their fragile legs are forced into shackles and their throats are cut.
Their emaciated bodies are so damaged that their flesh can generally be used only for chicken noodle soup, companion animal food, or “canned, boned, and diced” meat, much of which goes to the National School Lunch Program. (11) In some cases, they are disposed of by being gassed or thrown alive onto dead piles. (12)
The label “cage free” if far from cruelty-free. As the term implies, hens laying eggs labeled as “cage free” are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but generally do not have access to the outdoors. There is no information regarding what the birds can be fed. Forced molting through starvation is permitted. There is no third party auditing.(13)
While the USDA has defined the meaning of “free range” for some poultry products, there are no standards in “free range” egg production. Typically, free range egg-laying hens are uncaged inside barns or warehouses and have outdoor access. They can engage in many natural behaviors such as nesting and foraging. However, there is no information on stocking density, the frequency or duration of outdoor access, or the quality of the land accessible to the birds. There is no information regarding what the birds can be fed. Forced molting through starvation is permitted. There is no third-party auditing.(13)
The birds are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but may be kept indoors at all times. They must be able to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching, and dust bathing. There are requirements for stocking density and number of perches and nesting boxes. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing. Certified Humane is a program of Humane Farm Animal Care. (13) There’s nothing humane about bringing an animal to this world for the sol purpose of exploitation and profit.
The birds are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, and are required to have outdoor access (although there have been concerns about lax enforcement, with some large-scale producers not providing birds meaningful access to the outdoors). They are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides, as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. Forced molting through starvation is permitted. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing.(13)
Natural, Omega-3 Enriched, Vegetarian -Fed:
These appealing labels have no significant impact on the welfare of the chickens or their living conditions.(13)
Don’t Fall for the Lies!!
Don’t be misled by packages of meat, eggs, and dairy foods with pictures of happy animals running near quaint country barns and reassuring labels proclaiming “organic” or “free-range” where animals often spend much of their time confined to crowded sheds or mud-filled pens, endure the same cruel mutilations—such as debeaking, dehorning, and castration without painkillers—as animals on conventional factory farms. Hens in industrial animal factories live a polar opposite existence to their wild counterparts. These hens never scratch in the dirt, feel a blade of grass, build a nest, or even stretch their wings. The egg industry shows no signs of voluntarily improving their inherently inhumane standard practices. It is up to consumers to reject this unnecessary suffering, and promote more compassionate practices.
Is it Even Safe?
Not only is the industry barred from saying eggs are healthy, they can’t even refer to eggs as safe because more than a 100,000 Americans are poisoned by Salmonella from eggs every year. The egg board’s response to this egg-borne epidemic is that Salmonella is a naturally occurring bacterium. The egg industry didn’t think that should necessarily be the key message, fearing that “it may be counterproductive by implying there is no avoiding Salmonella in eggs aside from avoiding eggs altogether.”Eggs also can’t be called safe because of avian influenza. So instead of safe, they can call eggs “fresh,” the USDA marketing service helpfully suggests. But they can’t call eggs safe, and they can’t say eggs are safe to eat. They can’t even mention safety at all.Not only can eggs not be called healthy they can’t even be called safe? Says who? Says the United States Department of Agriculture. (15)
Here are some excerpts of Dr. Greger’s presentation discussing this:
“This is some egg company trying to put out a brochure on healthy snacking for kids. But because of existing laws against false and misleading advertising, the head of the USDA’s poultry research and promotion programs reminds them that you can’t couch eggs or egg products as being healthy or nutritious…. You can’t say eggs are nutritious at all. Can’t say ‘nutritious’. Cannot say eggs are ‘nutritious’, sometimes you have to tell the industry a few times. Can’t say eggs are ‘healthful’, certainly can’t say they’re ‘healthy’…. Since you can’t say eggs are a ‘healthy’ start to the day, the USDA suggests ‘satisfying’ start. Can’t call eggs a ‘healthful’ ingredient, but you can call eggs a ‘recognizable’ ingredient. Can’t truthfully say eggs are good for you. By law, the egg industry ‘needs to steer clear of words like healthy or nutritious’.”
[this section is sourced from (16)]
Where to begin? Let’s start with the obvious egg facts. Eggs have zero dietary fiber, and about 70 percent of their calories are from fat—a big portion of which is saturated. They are also loaded with cholesterol—about 213 milligrams for an average-sized egg. For reference, people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or high cholesterol should consume fewer than 200 milligrams of cholesterol each day. (Uh oh.) And, humans have no biological need to consume any cholesterol at all, since we make enough in our own bodies.
In a 1992 analysis of dietary habits, people who consumed just 1.5 eggs per week had nearly five times the risk for colon cancer, compared with those who consumed hardly any (fewer than 11 per year), according to the International Journal of Cancer. The World Health Organization analyzed data from 34 countries in 2003 and found that eating eggs is associated with death from colon and rectal cancers. And a 2011 study funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that eating eggs is linked to developing prostate cancer. By consuming 2.5 eggs per week, men increased their risk for a deadly form of prostate cancer by 81 percent, compared with men who consumed less than half an egg per week. Finally, even moderate egg consumption tripled the risk of developing bladder cancer, according to a 2005 study published in International Urology and Nephrology.
A review of fourteen studies published earlier this year in the journal Atherosclerosis showed that people who consumed the most eggs increased their risk for diabetes by 68 percent, compared with those who ate the fewest.
In a 2008 publication for the Physicians’ Health Study I, which included more than 21,000 participants, researchers found that those who consumed seven or more eggs per week had an almost 25 percent increased risk of death compared to those with the lowest egg consumption. The risk of death for participants with diabetes who ate seven or more eggs per week was twice as high as for those who consumed the least amount of eggs.
Egg consumption also increases the risk of gestational diabetes, according to two 2011 studies referenced in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Women who consumed the most eggs had a 77 percent increased risk of diabetes in one study and a 165 percent increased risk in the other, compared with those who consumed the least.
Researchers published a blanket warning in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology,informing readers that ceasing egg consumption after a heart attack would be “a necessary act, but late.” In the previously mentioned 14-study review, researchers found that people who consumed the most eggs increased their risk for cardiovascular disease by 19 percent, and if those people already had diabetes, the risk for developing heart disease jumped to 83 percent with increased egg consumption.
New research published this year has shown that a byproduct of choline, a component that is particularly high in eggs, increases one’s risk for a heart attack, stroke, and death.
Inevitably, this discussion also leads to another question: “Even egg whites?” Yes, even egg whites are trouble. The reason most people purport to eat egg whites is also the reason they should be wary — egg whites are a very concentrated source of animal protein (remember, the raw material for all those yet-to-be-developed body parts?). Because most Westerners get far more protein than they need, adding a concentrated source of it to the diet can increase the risk for kidney disease, kidney stones, and some types of cancer.
Misleading marketing & 10-million dollar advertising dollar budget
Just like the meat an dairy industries, the egg industry, has been receiving very generous subsidies from the government for decades. The American Egg Board (AEB) is a United States marketing board, which focuses on marketing and promotion of eggs for human consumption whose mission is to increase egg production and consumption, despite the harsh health consequences consumers will have to deal with. They are definite doing an impeccable job of keeping us in the dark. The board, which promotes the consumption of eggs, commits a whopping 41% of its $20M income to advertising, which is extremely biased and misleading. As the truth is continually being brought to light, advertisements are becoming more and more creative and appealing to customers. Don’t fall for it. Like the dairy industry, the egg industry is a profit driven business with one goal; to keep all their loyal egg-loving customers.
Eating eggs are harming the environment? Wait what?? As I focused in my Vegan For the Planet article, animal agriculture is the single leading industry that is destroying our planet more than any other…which includes eggs. Breeding, raising and exploiting hens for their eggs is a massive waste of resources. It takes approximately 3 kilos of grain (in the form of chicken feed) to produce one kilo of eggs.(18) Not only is is a waste of the grain (feed), but water-intensive grain feed as well as water for drinking and irrigation uses a large amount of water. Every single egg requires an average of 53 gallons of water to produce. That adds up to a whopping 636 gallons of water for just a dozen eggs!!(19)
Egg farms are also responsible for concerning amounts of ammonia gas emissions. Bird feces contain high levels of uric acid which is rapidly converted to ammonia in the presence of appropriate microbes. Pollution from livestock farms seriously threatens ecosystems, as well as human health. In fact, the fecal waste of cows, pigs and chickens has already contaminated over 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states, and contaminated groundwater in at least 17 states. (18)
What do I eat Instead?
By now, I’m hoping you understand why transitioning away from eating eggs is better for the chickens, your health, and our planet. Now you’re probably wondering how you’re going to replace them. Cutting foods out of your diet can certainly be difficult, but there are loads of alternatives to try out!! Whether eggs are your favorite breakfast food, you love baking, or you just want that taste and texture, there are so many amazing alternatives!! Businesses are now coming up with vegan eggs that can be used to make quiches, omelettes, and scrambles! I recently tried egg-less mayonnaise which tasted just the same, (or even better) than the standard mayonnaise. (I highly recommend this one!)
You can easily replace the important nutrients, (protein, omega 3-s and vitamins) without including the unhealthy nutritional components (cholesterol and saturated fat) into your diet, with vegan foods such as like scrambled tofu, avocado, legumes, nuts, seeds, and many other healthful foods. As for omega 3-s, there are much healthier vegan sources such as flax and chia seeds which are also a good source of fiber and protein. Not a fan of flax or chia?? You can easily sneak them into smoothies, oatmeal, or even vegan yogurts. If you’re like me and love to bake, there are tons of amazing tips online for how to make egg replacers with ingredients like ground flax seeds, banana, and applesauce. You can even buy vegan egg replacers for baking, like this one at some grocery stores or online.
As you can see, there are clearly many amazing and healthful alternatives to eggs. Plus, there are so many benefits to leaving the eggs of your plate. You can stand up for all the suffering chickens and the injustice the animals face. You can feed your body food that nourishes you, instead of harms you. You can start eating in a way that can sustain our planet.
It is up to us, as consumers, to decide what we want to support. As I mentioned, the egg industry, like all food industries, is a profit driven business. Without demand, there is no supply. Please reconsider your food choices.
This article was written in dedication to all the animals that are suffering oppression and injustice due to the cruelty us humans are inflicting on them. Just like your dog or cat, chickens are creatures that have personalities, emotions, and can feel pain and suffering. It is about time we respect them and have compassion.
Share this article with friends, family, or on social media, so we can get the truth out there!!
(1)Accessed 4/11/16 from: http://www.peta.org/features/egg-industry-cruelty/
(2) An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals In the Egg Industry: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/welfare_egg.pdf
(3)Accessed 4/11/16 from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2344198/Chickens-smarter-human-toddlers-Studies-suggest-animals-master-numeracy-basic-engineering.html
(4)Accessed from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10129124/Chickens-cleverer-than-toddlers.html
(5)Accessed 4/11/16 from: http://humanefacts.org/eggs/
(6) An HSUS Report: The Welfare of Animals In the Egg Industry: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/welfare_egg.pdf
(7) Rodriguez, Sheila. “The Morally Informed Consumer: Examining Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Labels“, Temple Journal of Science, Technology & Environmental Law, 51 (2011).
(8)Accessed 4/11/16 from: http://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/factory-farms/animals-factory-farms
(9)Accessed 4/11/16 from: http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/chickens/egg-industry/
(10)Accessed 4/11/16 from: http://www.foodispower.org/hens-raised-for-eggs/
(11)Accessed 4/11/16 from: http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/chickens/egg-industry/
(12)Accessed 4/11/16 from: http://humanefacts.org/eggs/
(13)Egg Industry: Exposing the Truth About Eggs; Lables Accessed 4/11/16 from: http://eggindustry.com/cfi/faq/freefromharm.org/eggs-what-are-you-really-eating/
(14)Eggs: What Are You Really Eating? By |
(15) By: Dr. Michael Greger September 5, 2014
Accessed 4/12/16 from: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/who-says-eggs-arent-healthy-or-safe.html
(16) What’s Wrong with Eggs? By Susan Levin, MS, RD
Accessed 4/12/16 from: http://www.forksoverknives.com/whats-wrong-with-eggs/
(17) American Egg Board announces budget -Written February 9, 2010
Accessd 4/13/16 from : http://www.wattagnet.com/articles/4993-american-egg-board-announces-budget
(18)What’s Wrong With Eggs? The Truth The Egg Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know, By: Erin Janus
Accessed 4/18/16 from: http://erinjanus.com/the-truth-the-egg-industry-doesnt-want-you-to-know/#sthash.yKW4xlFe.dpuf
(19)Accessed 4/18/16 from: http://qz.com/171698/it-takes-53-gallons-of-water-to-produce-a-single-egg/