NAEF Reaches Out to Massachusetts Dailies

NAEF Reaches Out to Massachusetts Dailies

A “Yes” Vote on Question 3 this November Will Not Improve Animal Welfare


(On August 16th, NAEF sent the following story to 35 daily newspapers in Massachusetts).


Massachusetts voters will have more to decide than the next U.S. President when they enter the voting booth on November 8.  Question No. 3 is a minimum size requirement for farm animal containment that suggests a “yes vote” is better welfare while a “no vote” is more animal cruelty.  This is false.  The initiative began by requiring “certain farm animals (including egg-producing chickens) are able to stand up, lie down, turn around and extend their limbs.” Sounds reasonable, but chickens producing eggs today already have this ability.  The pictures shown of chickens struggling in cages is no more typical of modern egg production than pictures of homeless in Boston is typical of living conditions in that city. The National Association of Egg Farmers wants the people in Massachusetts to know that it has been more than five decades since the modern system of producing eggs ensures that chickens have better health, produce more grade-A eggs, and prevent contamination of the eggs with dirt and manure on the ground.  The width and height of the cage allows each chicken to stand up, sit down, turn around, and spread its wings. They will touch other chickens when they spread their wings, but this also happens when they are loose on the ground as they flock together. Chickens establish a pecking order among their flock, so reducing the number of birds in an enclosure such as the modern cages reduces the stress from pecking and thus improving the welfare.  If this voter initiative passes in Massachusetts, it will be repeating the same mistakes in California when their initiative became law in 2015. Without improving the health and welfare of the chicken, egg prices rose more than 33% after the law’s implementation. Don’t be misled by the misinformed who really don’t want you to eat eggs anyway. Ask the farmer who really wants his hens to keep producing a safe and wholesome egg at reasonable prices.


NAEF Corrects Misinformation in Washington Post

NAEF Corrects Misinformation in Washington Post

On August 3rd NAEF responded to the Washington Post article about “Happier Chickens”. The WaPo author concluded erroneously that chickens are “happier” when they no longer in cages, but NAEF felt it must strive to correct her misconception about the way eggs should be produced.


I enjoyed reading the article in the July 31st issue of the Washington Post "Are Chickens Happier When They're Cage-Free - It's Hard to Tell."


It's true there are trade-offs in any production system.  Perhaps a few facts from the recent study conducted by the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply will help.  The co-director, Dr. Joy Mench from University of California-Davis, reported the following from that study at the International Poultry Production and Processing Exposition in Atlanta, GA on January 26, 2016:


  1. 1.Total accumulated mortality was highest in the aviary (cage-free) system (11.5 percent), due to aggressive pecking and cannibalism. It was 4.7 percent in conventional cages.
  2. 2.Bone strength was lowest in conventional cages due to lack of exercise.
  3. 3.Using conventional production as a baseline, aviary production was 36 percent higher inof the eggs.
  4. 4.The aviary system had dust levels 8-10 times higher than other systems.
  5. 5.The aviary system resulted in high worker exposure to endotoxin dust particles and reduced lung function by the end of a shift.
  6. 6.The aviary system also presented ergonomic challenges; hens laying in litter resulted in a lot of crawling around for employees and potential respiratory and infection hazards.
  7. 7.Keel bone breakage was highest in the aviary system.


One of the comments addressed food safety. Eggs laid on the ground where manure is also located have an increased likelihood of bacterial contamination.   Below are two scientific journals substantiating these findings:


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.


Conventional cages allow the feces to drop through the screen floor whereas in cage-free systems, the eggs are laid in the same general area for manure.  The potential for contamination is increased.


These results were confirmed in 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."


When considering all the trade-offs including cannibalism, diseases, and food safety, I'm happy that today's modern egg farmer has learned to produce a safe, wholesome egg in a modern cage system.


News Reports Vindicates Yearlong Claim by National Association of Egg Farmers

News Reports Vindicates Yearlong Claim by National Association of Egg Farmers

  1. 1)On July 16th the New York Times reported on the trend toward cage-free is not without its problems

All that newfound freedom can introduce health risks for hens, workers and consumers. The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a group of animal welfare scientists, academics, egg farmers and big companies, recently released a report documenting several troubling aspects of aviary systems. (The group is backed both by egg producers, which have little incentive to change their ways, and food companies that have pledged to go cage-free.)

Perhaps most troubling, “hen mortality was much higher in the aviary system,” the report said. When hens move around more freely, it is easier for them to spread germs. And hens in cage-free aviaries were also more aggressive than their cage-bound peers, pecking at one another and, in some instances, becoming cannibalistic.


  1. 2)On July 18th Food Dive published this report on cage-free egg production.

  • Sourcing 100% cage-free eggs has become a popular trend among food manufacturers that use eggs in their products. But aviaries, the most common industrial cage-free alternative for housing egg-laying hens, bear their own risks and problems for the hens, employees and the environment, according to a new report from the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply.
  • In aviary systems, hen mortality is higher than traditional battery cages because it is easier for the hens to spread germs. Hens in this environment also tend to become more aggressive, including pecking at one another or even becoming cannibalistic.
  • Aviaries can also increase health risks for employees who care for the hens and collect the eggs. This included being exposed to higher ammonia concentrations, dust levels and particulate matter emissions in the air, which can cause respiratory issues for workers.
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