I don’t eat meat or any animal-derived products. Eggs, cheese, milk, etc., that’s all out. That means my diet is plant-based. It could also mean my diet is vegan, depending on a few things not worth getting into here.
I’ve had so many people ask if I’ll eat “humane” eggs. They’ll say, I get my eggs from a farm where the chickens all have a very nice life. What’s wrong with eating those eggs? There’s even a relatively recent push by a group calling themselves “veggan,” who must have a pretty screwy understanding of what veganism is all about.
Many people, including many vegetarians, believe that it’s morally acceptable to eat animal-derived products if no killing is involved. First, I don’t agree with that line of reasoning. Second, and more importantly here, it’s not true. There is plenty of killing associated with these so-called “humane” eggs.
Male chicks are killed within days of being born.
Within days of hatching, chicks are sorted by gender. Males to the left, females to the right. Unfortunately for the males, they have no commercial value, so what lies to the left is a grinder. The males are thrown into this grinder while still alive, crushing and killing them, just days after birth. The process is called “chick shredding” and it’s the industry standard everywhere in the world.
But surely the nice independent hippy organic farmer down the road doesn’t grind up live male chickens, does he? No, he probably doesn’t. But take a look around his operation. How many males (roosters) do you see? The answer is most likely zero, though he may have one for the novelty of the thing. As is the case with humans, boy chickens and girl chickens are born in equal proportions. Your friendly hippy farmer doesn’t hatch his own chicken’s eggs, he buys baby girl chickens from a supplier, and he only buys females. The person he bought those eggs from has already “disposed of” all the males on his behalf. Your so-called “humane” egg has already killed, in a most brutal fashion.
Female chickens are killed when egg production wanes.
A typical chicken has a natural lifespan of roughly 10-12 years. Most will produce eggs at a regular interval until it’s about 2-3 years old. After that time, egg production will decline and grinds to an eventual halt. The majority of chicken coop operators, private and commercial, slaughter chickens when production declines. Some may keep the chicken around until egg production ceases. No one hangs on to their non-egg producing chickens. How many farmers do you suppose are willing to feed a hen for 5, 6, 7, 8 years after it’s stopped producing eggs?
This means that those chickens who supposedly have this great life are killed when they’ve lived but a fraction of their natural lives. In human terms, it’s the equivalent of slaughtering a 40 year old woman, at best. In the majority of cases, it’s more like slaughtering a 20 year old girl. Your “humane” egg has now caused two untimely deaths.
Chickens were not designed to produce hundreds of eggs per year.
Depending on the breed, a chicken will naturally produce 12 to 60 eggs each year. The breed native to North America lays about an egg per month, just like a human. The type from which modern egg producers are bred will lay about 60 eggs per year naturally.
Guess how many eggs today’s laying hens will produce? We have bred them to produce 500-600 per year, which is an average of more than one egg per day.
This increased egg output comes at a cost. Namely, that chicken’s health. Producing an egg is not so easy. It requires a ton of energy and a ton of nutrients. Calcium for the shell, for instance, comes at the expense of bone strength. Egg production is so costly, in fact, that a wild chicken will typically consume any unfertilized egg it produces to regain that energy and those nutrients. Imagine breeding a human, or any other animal, to produce 5-10 times as many eggs in a year’s time as it would naturally. Imagine the toll it would take on the body. Imagine trying to be happy while living your life as a factory.
There is no such thing as a humane egg on 2017 Earth.
I’m sorry if that crushes your world-view, but it is the truth. Yes, commercial egg production in “factory farms” is typically more inhumane than that nice hippy farm down the road. But it’s a fallacy to believe that backyard eggs are cruelty-free because they’re marginally better than factory farmed eggs. But backyard eggs, though less cruel, are still cruel. This isn’t an A-B choice and there is a third option. No one needs to eat eggs in order to survive.