One of your readers asked me to write a letter explaining how cage-free eggs differ from free-range eggs, in response to a Feb. 18 letter, “Mainers should take action on cage-free eggs.”

Cage-free hens are more humanely treated than battery-caged hens, who are not treated humanely at all. However, cage-free hens do not go outdoors; they do not range in the open air. Cage-free hens are typically confined in crowded windowless buildings. They are almost always debeaked (“beak-trimmed”) at the hatchery before being moved elsewhere. Though chickens are designed by nature to scratch in the ground for food with their beaks and claws, they do not get to do this in a cage-free facility housing 25,000 or more hens.

Chickens love sunlight – they sunbathe daily outdoors. Cage-free hens are denied this simple pleasure. And while cage-free hens would normally live five or more years, they are usually slaughtered after a year of laying eggs.

For these reasons, and because avian influenza and salmonella have become intrinsic to all sectors of the egg industry, consumers would do well to consider egg-free cooking and baking. As many of us have learned, eggs are not necessary.

Karen Davis
president, United Poultry Concerns
Machipongo, Va.

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