11 May 2010

UEP touts American consumer’s preference for ‘regular’ eggs

According to checkout scanner data analyzed by Information Resources, Inc., Americans are choosing “regular” eggs (battery cage) over cage-free eggs at a 40-to-1 clip and the United Egg Producers (UEP) apparently are quite happy with this demonstration of “freedom” in action.

“It's disturbing to see animal rights activists try to force retailers and restaurant companies take away that consumer choice by making them buy only cage free eggs, especially when regular eggs have similar nutritional content. This data clearly indicates that consumers...when given free choice...still prefer regular eggs to cage free or other types of eggs by an overwhelming majority,” said Gene Gregory, President of the UEP.

Obviously price is the driving factor behind the large disparity between battery cage and cage-free egg purchases with the latter costing consumers nearly three times more. It appears the “overwhelming majority” of Americans who choose “regular” eggs are purchasing them out of frugality not freedom.

Unfortunately, though, most consumers only view cost as a price tag on an item, they rarely ponder the behind-the-scenes actions that produce the food they are purchasing.

Consider the conditions egg laying hens must endure in factory farms on a daily basis. They are crammed into battery cages that provide only 67 square inches of floor space, clearly restricting the animals from performing natural behaviors like nesting, bathing, flapping their wings or perching. According to Nobel Prize winning scientist Dr. Konrad Lorenz:

“The worst torture to which a battery hen is exposed is the inability to retire somewhere for the laying act. For the person who knows something about animals it is truly heart-rending to watch how a chicken tries again and again to crawl beneath her cagemates to search there in vain for cover.”

The plight of the male chick is even more disturbing.

Male chicks are considered useless by the egg producing industry since they cannot lay eggs nor be raised profitably for meat. Standard operating procedure is to simply slaughter the chicks by dropping them into a grinding machine, while alive.

Last year Mercy for Animals (MFA) released video from an undercover investigation showing this practice being utilized by the nation’s largest egg producer, Hy-line International. It revealed deplorable conditions including footage of male chicks slipping through the grinding machine and dying on the factory floor. The response from the UEP was chilling yet not unexpected.

“There is, unfortunately, no way to breed eggs that only produce female hens. If someone has a need for 200 million male chicks, we’re happy to provide them to anyone who wants them. But we can find no market, no need. Using a grinder is the most instantaneous way to euthanize chicks,” said the UEP’s spokesman, Mitch Head.

That, Mr. Gregory, is “disturbing.”

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