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With Eggs, the Choices Are Many

Oct 20, 2015 04:32AM ● Published by Family Features

(Family Features) Cage-free? Organic? Local? When purchasing eggs, many people read the carton to help understand how the hens were housed when producing those eggs. But is the label on the egg carton a good indicator of the hens’ well-being?

The variety of options can make determining the eggs best for you and your family difficult. To help support consumer choice and provide information to sort through the confusion, the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply recently completed a three-year research study. Researchers assessed hens’ well-being, egg safety and quality, affordability, worker health and safety, and environmental impact as elements of sustainability in cage-free, conventional and enriched colony hen housing.

What the researchers found might be surprising, with positive and negative aspects associated with each housing system. For instance, while conventional cage housing limits the ability of hens to exhibit natural behaviors, it also has the lowest mortality rate. Conversely, cage-free housing allows hens to nest, perch and even attempt flying, though hen mortality was more than double that of the other housing options researched. By understanding which findings are most important to them, shoppers can be confident in choosing eggs that are right for them. 

“Hen well-being is an important aspect of producing eggs, but it should be considered along with many other elements of egg production,” said Darrin Karcher, Extension Specialist in the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University and CSES Project Director. “This research allows us to better understand how each housing system affects not only the well-being of the hens, but a variety of other factors. This is a valuable tool consumers, restaurants and retailers can use to make more informed decisions about which eggs are best for them.”

When choosing what’s best for you and your family, whether you prioritize egg cost, hens being able to exhibit natural behaviors, environmental impact or another element of sustainability, making an informed choice begins with understanding which eggs best meet your needs.

For more information about sustainable egg production, as well as videos, interactive infographics and the CSES research results, visit sustainableeggcoalition.org.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Sponsored by Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply

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