Denny's recently announced its plan to provide only cage-free eggs in its U.S. restaurants by 2026. With the company serving up 400 million eggs a year, this is a major milestone in chicken welfare. But, as Fortune magazine points out, the news is not quite as good as it sounds.
"Cage-free" simply means that the chickens are uncaged and able to walk around. Most of the time, this means thousands of chickens packed inside a giant barn with no access to the outdoors. A 2014 survey found that over half of consumers confused "cage-free" with "pasture-raised," where chickens can roam outdoors and forage for insects. (This Denny's commercial only adds to the confusion, showing chickens on pasture instead of typical cage-free conditions.)
The Humane Society sums it up this way: "[Cage-free] systems generally offer hens a significantly improved level of animal welfare than do battery cage systems, though the mere absence of cages sometimes isn’t enough to ensure high welfare." Yet even in pasture-raised systems, one of the highest welfare standards, male chicks are killed at birth and hens may have the ends of their beaks cut to prevent pecking injuries.
Reducetarians concerned about animal welfare may choose reduce the number of eggs they eat, or cut them out altogether.
Written by Cameron Meyer Shorb