05 October 2010

Union Hospital in Maryland switches to cage-free eggs

Union Hospital of Cecil County, MD., has gathered praise from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) by deciding to move away from eggs from caged hens and to use cage-free instead.

The move couldn't come at a better time, with the half a billion eggs recalled last month highlighting the animal welfare and food safety issues associated with cage farming. In fact, all ten studies published in the last five years comparing Salmonella rates between cage and cage-free operations found increased Salmonella in caged environments.

"The Humane Society of the United States applauds Union Hospital for its switch to cage-free eggs and hopes more hospitals will follow its lead," says Kristie Middleton, corporate outreach manager for The HSUS's factory farming campaign. "Union Hospital should be commended for improving food safety and the lives of animals in its supply chain."

More than a dozen U.S. hospitals and hospital systems have switched to cage-free eggs in recent years, as well as major manufacturers. Otis Spunkmeyer, Pepperidge Farm and Sara Lee are switching, with Hellman's mayonnaise pledging to do the same.

California and Michigan have passed laws to outlaw the cage confinement of hens, and California has further stated that all whole eggs to be used in the state are to be cage-free by 2015.

U.S. factory farms currently confine almost 280 million hens in cages so small, they cannot even spread their wings. Extensive scientific research shows how distressing this is to the birds. Cage-free hens generally have two to three times the space of caged birds, although they still may not be able to go outside and like caged hens, may have part of their beaks removed, they can walk, spread their wings and lay eggs in nests all of which are behaviors denied a hen in a caged environment.

Bev Hahler | @redhotvegan
Bev, a vegetarian since she was 14 years old, became more interested in veganism several years ago after studying Agro-business as part of an Ecology degree. Follow Bev on her blog and Facebook.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/10451396@N00