August 24th Bangor Daily News Op-Ed “It’s Time for Turner Egg Factor to Go Cage-Free” provides a narrative that does not fit the facts, stated the National Association of Egg Farmers.
Hillandale Egg Farms, the new owners, uses production methods that provide humanely for the chicken while ensuring a safe and wholesome egg.
1) The claims that caged layers increases Salmonella is not even logical. The Food & Drug Administration has issued a regulation entitled Prevention of Salmonella Enteritidis in Shell Eggs During Production, Storage, and Transportation (21 CFR part 118) on July 9, 2009 requiring shell egg farmers to implement measures to prevent SE from contaminating eggs on the farm. If caged environments increased Salmonella, it's inconceivable that FDA would issue regulations governing the production of eggs in caged environments.
2) The Journal Poultry Science in 2011 [90, pp. 1586-1593] published "Comparison of shell bacteria from unwashed and washed table eggs harvested from caged laying hens and cage-free floor-housed laying hens." This study found that the numbers of bacteria on eggs was lower in housing systems that separated hens from manure and shavings.
3) The Journal Food Control published a study June 17, 2014 entitled "Microbiological Contamination of Shell Eggs Produced in Conventional and Free-Range Housing Systems" The conclusions state "Battery caged hens (conventional cages) are standing on wire slats that allow feces to fall to a manure collection system beneath the hens. Conversely, free-range hens (cage-free) laid their eggs in nest boxes on shavings and the eggs remained in contact with hens, shavings and fecal material until they are collected. The longer contact time with free-range hens, shavings and feces would explain the higher enterobacteriaceae counts (pathogenic bacteria) on free-range eggs as compared to battery caged eggs."
4) As to the welfare of caged hens compared to cage-free, any reasoning person can see just watching that hens peck each other to establish the pecking order. In a caged environment, the number of hens are minimized compared to the hundreds on the floor where the lower hen on the pecking order is pecked more often. That would help explain what mortality among cage-free hens has been shown to be as high as 28% of the total flock compared to 9% for caged layers (North Carolina State University). Furthermore, the immune response (measured from hematological and immunological indices at NC State) showed free-range chickens with poorer immune response thus leaving the chicken more vulnerable to disease. Logically then, caged layers have lower stress when noting the mortality and immune response investigations.
We hope your readers realize the narrative of the author criticizing Hillandale is misinformed as today’s conventional cages provide humanely for the chickens while providing a safe and wholesome egg.