We all know that factory farming practices are bad. Really bad.
Most chickens are raised in big production houses and are confined to an area the size of an oven for their entire life. These poor birds are also pumped full of cheap grain feed to fatten them up as quickly as possible. As a result, their legs are often unable to support their body weight and break under the strain of the extreme load. They’re often injected with antibiotics that sturdy up the legs and allow them to survive to six weeks. At this point, they’re processed for production, wrapped in plastic, sold to you at the grocery store, and fed to your families.
None of this is news to you. Knowing full well the inhumane and downright disgusting practices of factory farms, you probably pay close attention to labels when purchasing eggs from the grocery store:
Labels like… “Free Range” “Organic” “Hormone-Free” “Antibiotic-Free”
Think these words somehow make your eggs more healthy, humane, and natural? Think again. Most of the token labels that you’ve been paying $3 + more for per dozen mean absolutely nothing.
The term organic simply means that the chickens’ feed has been certified by a government agency to contain no unnatural fertilizers or pesticides. However, the chickens may still be living their lives stacked two-high in a feed house, defecating on one another in a life of chicken misery.
Most of these big-box chickens are de-beaked, a process that involves half of the beak of each chicken being chopped off. This prevents the chickens from resorting to the cannibalism and suicide that occurs as a result of living under such cruel conditions. These behaviors aren’t difficult to imagine. Chickens were designed to pick and scratch for their entire lives.
What about free range?
This certification has been widely abused throughout the poultry community. One might think the term should mean that the birds have room to explore, play, and forage. But this has come to mean something entirely different.
Take that same feed house from the previous few paragraphs, cut a little hole in the wall, and it’s suddenly considered “free range.” These chickens are considered free range because they have the “option” to explore (even if the feed house is surrounded by dirt and the chickens literally never go outside to act like chickens). You may want to rethink paying the extra $5 for this “upgrade” the next time you’re at the supermarket.
Hormone + Antibiotic Free
The phrase “hormone free” is a convincing selling point for store bought eggs. But that’s all it is – a term to make you believe that the product you are purchasing is superior to others.
In the United States, it’s actually illegal for commercial egg-laying hens to be given hormones — for good reason. But I can’t blame any company for bragging about the “hormone-free” status of their product as most people have no idea this is an industry standard.
Antibiotics are another story. According to USpoultry.gov,
“Antibiotic-free claims on egg cartons can be only be made by egg producers who choose not to use any antibiotics in feed or water during the growing period of pullets or while hens are laying eggs. Flocks producing certified organic eggs must be antibiotic free by regulation.”
Although this label does carry more weight than it’s “hormone-free” cousin, it still doesn’t count for much. If a chicken’s living conditions necessitate the need for disease-preventing antibiotics, you can bet that chicken is far from living on a pasture with plenty of space to roam and forage.
Yes, Primal Pastures does sell eggs. But this post isn’t an advertisement for them (though our eggs are amazing).
Instead, I (we) would rather you raise them yourself. Seriously! It’s not as difficult as you might think.
That being said, we have definitely had our share of “learning experiences” in raising hens for eggs (detailed post coming soon), but the reward has been more than worth it. We’re even working on a few projects to keep you from making some of the mistakes we’ve made in trying to raise egg-laying birds as efficiently and effectively as possible (sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know)!
Aside from buying pasture-raised eggs from your local farmer, raising them yourself is really the only other option if you aren’t into supporting inhumane farming practices and feeding antibiotic infested chicken eggs raised on grains and soy to you and your family. By raising your own eggs, you can guarantee that they will be…
- Beyond Organic
- Truly Free Range
- Free of hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals
- More nutrient-dense (note the rich color of the pastured egg above)
Plus, it’s fun! With hens laying eggs in your own backyard, every day feels like Easter (minus the candy overload). You’ll be providing yourself and your family with the best possible source of eggs available. And saving a ton of money! Give it a try – what do you have to lose?
Have you already started raising your own egg-layers? If so, how’s it going??