United Egg Producers: Are Free Range Birds Happier? Maybe Not!

Dec 19, 2007, 00:00 ET from United Egg Producers

    ATLANTA, Dec. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Animal rights activists have long
 alleged that hens in modern cages live a horribly stressed life, but new
 research appears to debunk those claims. Researchers have discovered that
 free range hens experience just as much or more stress than hens raised in
 modern, conventional cages.
     A recent study conducted by Dr. Jeff Downing at University of Sydney
 measured corticosterone, a hormone produced in response to stress or fear,
 in eggs from free range and modern caged hens. The study showed that the
 levels of the hormone were similar in both types of eggs.
     Free range hens deal with pressures that hens in modern cages do not,
 researchers explained. For instance, hens in modern cages are protected
 from outside predators, while free range hens are not. "They are constantly
 in fear of attack by predators," said Downing. "A shadow (a bird flying
 overhead) comes over and they are completely startled."
     Hens in modern cages also are protected from many of the manure-borne
 diseases and parasites that affect free range hens. And hens in modern
 cages are protected from extreme weather which adds stress to free range
 hens which are not protected. Modern cages also help prevent infection and
 spread of the avian influenza virus which can affect wild birds and outdoor
 flocks of hens. Free range eggs can cost up to three times as much as
 conventional eggs.
     "This study confirms what America's egg farmers already knew," said
 Gene Gregory, president of the United Egg Producers, the nation's leading
 trade association for U.S. family egg farmers. "That well-run, clean modern
 cage housing systems have many benefits for hens as well as consumers."
 Separate research studies also show that hens raised in conventional cages
 tend to have fewer diseases and live longer, Gregory added.
     Modern egg production under the UEP Certified animal welfare program
 provides hens with nutritious food, clean water, fresh air and sufficient
 space to allow hens to stand, turn around, lie down, stretch and preen.
 Farms are inspected annually to ensure compliance. Consumers should look
 for the UEP Certified logo on cartons from participating farmers. For more
 information visit, www.uepcertified.com.
     UEP developed the UEP Certified program for modern egg production from
 scientific guidelines established by an independent advisory committee of
 top animal welfare experts in the U.S.

SOURCE United Egg Producers