This is Charlotte, who lays the eggs that you really love to eat. In 2011, over 1 billion eggs were eaten – 173 for every person in the world.
Charlotte is lucky. She feels the daylight and fresh air. Naturally gregarious, Charlotte lives in a flock, albeit one with a distinct ‘pecking order’! On this farm, the hens wander between large barns and the outdoors.
Charlotte and the others can act out their instinctive need to walk, run, roost and forage. Some studies have even found disease risk to be lower on these farms – for example, eggs from industrial battery cage farms in the UK were found to be more likely to contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning than eggs from ‘cage-free’ farms. These cage farms are a very different place.
Up to 90,000 hens are kept in one huge shed, in cramped cages, with little natural light. Imagine up to 10 distressed birds in one cage, each with only the space of a sheet of writing paper.
These hens will never stretch their wings. Never walk, never peck the ground. With little chance to move freely, their bones become brittle and liable to snap.
Hens are prevented from their most basic natural need: laying eggs in a nest. This is the current fate of an estimated three quarters of all egg-laying hens.
Charlotte is better off than any industrially farmed hen. But did you know that animal-friendly farming also benefits people and the planet?
Kinder ways of farming that allow hens to range freely, and produce both eggs and meat can improve the livelihoods of poultry keepers and reduce demand for imported feeds.
In India, free-range egg production is helping reduce poverty. A new breed of outdoor-loving chicken is helping poor women to boost their incomes and diets by producing healthier eggs and meat to eat and sell. Over 1 million families can now pay for previously unaffordable medicines and education.
So farming that considers each animal’s needs is kinder, healthier for you AND can make a difference to the lives of the farmers.