Compassion for chicken?

The estimated 270 million egg-laying hens in America are given cages the size of a sheet of paper (8 x 11 inches).  Due to a new bill supported by the Humane Society of the United States that is currently making its way through Congress, America’s chickens may be given larger cages that will give them the ability to stand up, scratch, perch, and flap their wings.

The new bill is a compromise between the Humane Society, who had originally pursued “cage-free” conditions for chickens, and the United Egg Producers, who represents the chicken farming industry and fought vigorously to prevent any additional cage-room being given to chickens.     

 The new law would amend the Egg Products Inspection Act to improve the conditions for chickens in chicken farms across the country.    It would require 125 square inches of room per chicken (about 12″ by 10″) within 15 years, and notification to consumers via labels on the egg cartons about how the manufacturer’s eggs are produced: eggs from caged hens; eggs from enriched colony systems; cage-free hens; free-range hens. 

Apparently, research in Europe shows that when consumers are offered these explanations, more of them choose eggs from hens that are treated better.  The enriched colony system, which houses chickens in European-style cages, has resulted in more eggs per chicken, lower mortality rates, and better health in the chickens.  JW West is  California’s only enriched colony chicken/egg farm, and features live videos of its chicken coops, in which the birds appear to be comfortably given enough room to have interaction with other chickens, move, scratch, flap their wings, and live somewhat ordinary lives, all things considered.  Their brand, Comfort Coop Eggs, can be purchased at a number of retailers

The story by Associated Press noted that the new chicken-cage bill has caused some concern among most of the nation’s leading beef and pork producers, who fear they will be the next target of legislation.  The coalition wrote a letter to Senator Debbie Stabenow, chairman of the Agriculture Committee, expressing that their “gravest concern” was that animal rights movements would “leach into all corners of animal farming, irreparably damaging the lives of family farmers across the country.”