The Humane Society of the United States has released an undercover video that shows animal abuse at a Texas farm operated by the largest egg producer in the United States. The video shows images of dead birds, overcrowding and hens covered in feces.
"At one point the video shows a dead bird as eggs roll by just inches away on a conveyor belt."
In the second video above, a report from the Cornucopia Institute's report, "Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture," empowers consumers who want to give their money to hard-working family farmers instead of factory farms.
Their organic egg scorecard rates companies organic eggs based on 22 criteria that are important to organic consumers. The scorecard showcases ethical family farms and exposes the factory farm producers that are threatening to take over organic livestock agriculture. Some of the factory farm operators keep as many as 85,000 "organic" hens in a single building!
Buying a carton of eggs at your grocery store is a task you probably do on a weekly basis or more. For most, the choice of which brand of eggs to buy most likely comes down to price or, maybe, staying loyal to a brand you've been using for years.
But what those cartons do not reveal is the story behind the eggs … and the chickens that laid them. And what seems like a good deal, may in reality, be no bargain for your health.
In the vast majority of cases, the eggs in your supermarket come from chickens that have been kept indoors their entire lives, may have been abused and surely suffered, not to mention were raised in filthy conditions that put your health at risk.
This is true not only for conventional eggs but also from many organic brands as well.
Many Eggs Come from Filthy Factories That Put Your Health at Risk
The Humane Society video above came from an undercover worker who obtained footage from Cal-Maine farm in Waelder, Texas. This farm is operated by the largest egg producer in the United States; Cal-Maine alone sold over 778 million eggs last year, 18 percent of the U.S. egg market.
As you can see in the video, the birds being raised at this farm are treated like objects -- stuck in cages, overcrowded, covered in feces -- which is not only hard to watch, but also hard to stomach.
Just last month, Cal-Maine recalled 288,000 eggs from one of its Ohio plants after they tested positive for Salmonella.
This is not surprising as chickens raised in unsanitary factory farm conditions are far more likely to be contaminated, and lay contaminated eggs.
In fact, one study by the British government found that 23 percent of farms with caged hens tested positive for salmonella, compared to just over 4 percent in organic flocks and 6.5 percent in pasture-raised flocks.
It may sound incredible, but many conventional egg operations contain as many as half a million chickens. Each cage will hold four or five birds, each with an area no larger than a letter-sized sheet of paper on which to "roam." The truth is, many of these chickens can barely move around at all, let alone stretch their wings, forage for food or even spend time in the light of day.
Subsequently, these cage-raised chickens have to be given routine doses of antibiotics and other drugs, all of which have serious health implications for you the consumer.
Every time you purchase a dozen of these eggs, you are directly supporting this broken system. But the solution is not as simple as switching over to organic.
Why Organic Supermarket Eggs May be No Better
Health-conscious organic consumers expect organic free-range eggs to be produced by hens that have ample access to the outdoors. But as the Cornucopia Institute's report shows, many organic brands are misleading consumers.
As Cornucopia says, "A high percentage of the eggs on the market should be labeled 'produced with organic feed' rather than bearing the USDA-certified organic logo," because many of these birds never actually get to set foot outdoors.
Mass-producing organic egg farmers circumvent the free-range criteria by providing tiny enclosed porches with roofs and concrete or wood flooring -- a far cry from what most organic consumers would associate with the word "free-range."
According to Cornucopia:
"Many of the porches represent just 3 to 5 percent of the square footage of the main building housing the birds. That means 95 percent or more of the birds have absolutely no access whatsoever."
In fact, some leading organic egg producers, including many privately labeled store brands, are actually giant factory farms that raise millions of chickens, both conventional and organic. It's not unusual for these "organic" factory farms to house 85,000 hens in a single building -- which is a far cry from what most people envision when they buy a carton of organic eggs.
Another Reason to Avoid Grocery Store Eggs …
It is standard industry practice to wash chicken eggs, often using a chlorine bath. Depending on the method of washing, the egg's outer protective cuticle can be easily damaged. This leaves your eggs vulnerable to contamination and faster spoilage.
The egg industry knows this, so to replace the cuticle that Mother Nature put there for good reason, they must coat the egg with something -- often mineral oil. It's akin to adding preservatives to processed foods.
Not all eggs undergo oiling, but many larger producers do, particularly if they are preparing their eggs for long-distance shipment and storage.
Like your skin, what's put ON your egg goes INTO your egg. Meaning, whatever the eggshell comes into contact with can cross over its semi-permeable shell membrane and end up in your breakfast eggs, from chlorine to mineral oil to dish soap -- to salmonella.
I think it is unlikely that an organic farmer would choose to use mineral oil or other harmful substances when cleaning and processing eggs, but the regulations are so variable from state to state, and the national guidelines so nebulous, that there is lots of wiggle room, even for eggs that are certified organic.
The truth is, when you buy your eggs in a grocery store, there's virtually no way to determine how they were cleaned and processed, unless you can contact the producer and get an honest response directly from them.
Where Can You Get Safe, High-Quality Eggs from Humane Sources?
If you look hard enough you can typically find a local source. I have someone that lives not far from me who has 20 chickens and lets me purchase the pasture-raised, completely cage-free eggs from her. I typically use many raw eggs a day, as they are an important part of my diet.
If you have to purchase your eggs from a commercial grocery store, go with the organic variety, but make sure they come from pasture-raised hens, which are healthier, live longer, and produce eggs with superior flavor and nutritional content than their factory-raised counterparts.
Also, be sure to select a high-rated organic brand from The Cornucopia Institute's report to ensure you're actually getting high-quality organic eggs and not a factory-farmed shill.
You can take a pass on the omega-3 fortified eggs, organic or otherwise, as the chickens producing these eggs are fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized.
But again, an even better option all around is to locate a local farmer where the chickens are fed well (they should be allowed to roam free and eat insects) and raised in humane conditions. I have never seen store-bought eggs that compares to the color of the yolk in locally farmed eggs. Typically they are deep orange, where most of the store-bought eggs are light yellow.
In my experience, eggs are one of the easiest foods to find from local farmers, so finding a local egg producer may not be as hard as you think.
To locate a free-range pasture farm near you, try:
By supporting the small farmers in your area not only will you gain access to a superior source of eggs, but also you'll be one less person to support the factory-farm monstrosities that are quickly destroying the integrity of the U.S. food supply.