There is no inspection system for companies that label their eggs “free-range.”
The popular myth that “free-range” egg-laying hens enjoy fresh grass, bask in the sunlight, scratch the earth, sit on their nests, and engage in other natural habits is often just that: a myth. In many commercial “free-range” egg farms, hens are crowded inside windowless sheds with little more than a single, narrow exit leading to an enclosure, too small to accommodate all of the birds at once.
Both battery cage and “free-range” egg hatcheries kill all male chicks shortly after birth. Since male chicks cannot lay eggs and are different breeds than those chickens raised for meat, they are of no use to the egg industry. Standard killing methods, even among “free-range” producers, include grinding male chicks alive or throwing them into trash bags and leaving them to suffocate.
Whether kept in sheds or cages, laying hens—who can naturally live more than ten years—are considered “spent” when they are just one or two years old and their productivity wanes. Rather than being retired, “free-range” hens are slaughtered to make room for another shed of birds.
With no federal regulations overseeing the use of animal welfare claims on egg cartons, misleading or exaggerated claims are rampant. Consumers may be deceived by phrases such as “animal-friendly” or “naturally-raised,” which can be found on cartons of eggs from caged hens. Read about COK’s truth in labeling campaign urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require the full disclosure of production methods on eggs cartons sold nationwide.