The Good Egg

Article by Mira Word, written for Good Food Finder. eggs

Growing up around horses, it's natural to have barn animal sidekicks like chickens, geese, peacocks, and goats running around, too. I was able to observe these animal’s natural behaviors and watch them create bonds, take dirt baths, scratch for bugs and form escape plans to eat an extra flake of hay.


Many of us already know the horrors of factory farms and how they ruin an animal’s chance to express any of these characteristics. It is always hard to hear or watch the suffering that goes on at the expense of our eating habits but an occasional reminder serves as motivation to get back into action and do our part to look for the good egg of best practices.

Here are 6 good reasons to avoid factory farmed eggs and the labels they hide behind.

#1. Chickens (and turkeys) are not protected under the Humane Slaughter Act, which is a federal law that requires some animals to be rendered insensible to pain before they are slaughtered. Get ready, this next part is hard to read. According to Farm Sanctuary 260 million male chicks are killed each year upon hatching by methods like being gassed, ground up fully conscious, or piped down a tube to an electrified “kill plate” (all female hens are sent to slaughter after they are no longer useful egg layers).

#2. Battery cages are where 95% of egg laying hens spend their lives, commonly hold 5 -10 birds and have less than the size of a sheet of paper to call their own. These cramped quarters lead to extreme feather loss, bruises and other injuries.

#3. Debeaking is a common practice where the tip of a chick’s beak (filled with nerves) is sliced off with a hot blade with no numbing. Debeaking the birds is desired because of the abnormal feather pecking that results from the intense stress the chickens undergo in their situations of confinement.

#4. Forced molting is the intentional starvation (up to 14 days) to create shock in a hen’s body and induce molting that doesn’t happen naturally inside the conditions of a factory farm. This process tricks the hen’s body into laying additional eggs during a time when her hormone cycle would be taking a break from producing eggs.

#5. "Free Range" is a label we throw around a lot and many consumers ease their mind and justify buying eggs because of this label. The USDA definition only states that the animals have access to the outdoors. In reality this means pretty much nothing. No provisions are made to the size, accessibility to this space or to the overall quality of the animal’s environment.

#6. Certified organic is not as good as it may sound. Is simply means that the chickens are fed an organic vegetarian diet and are required to have access to the outdoors but the duration or size is not specified. Debeaking and forced molting through starvation is permitted.

This PBS video can help illustrate some of the labeling myths that confuse us all:

The good news is that there are SO many great farmers that produce eggs locally where chickens have real ability to range free, take a dirt bath, nest and perch. We owe it to these animals to allow them a life of respect and compassion.

Check out the Good Food Finder for a good egg near you!

Authentically yours,

Mira Word


{Photo credits: Jennifer Woods and Mira Word, respectively}