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Category: Certified Humane

http://cagefree.summitlivestock.com/locations/lone-cactus/

What do “Cage Free” and Free Range Really Mean?

 

(photo from Summit Livestock Facilities. New Cage Free facility being built in Bouse, AZ)

We get this question at Nellie’s Free Range Eggs a lot. And it’s no surprise. The egg aisle has more unique terms these days than Doritos has flavor varieties. Free range, cage free, pasture raised, GMO Free, Organic, Farm Fresh, All Natural, and the list goes on. Particularly, when it comes to humane standards like Cage Free and Free Range, it can be very hard to know the difference.

But, there is very significant difference between the Certified Humane Free Range standard that we use and “Cage Free” that you are seeing more and more of in the marketplace. (The quotations around Cage Free are there because, as you will see, it’s quite misleading).

Most people would reasonably assume Cage Free to mean “no cages.” But the term is not a regulated standard by the USDA or the FDA (Free Range is defined by the USDA). So egg producers are left to define it for themselves. And as you might expect, the gigantic factory farms that have always brought you conventional eggs, laid by hens imprisoned in tiny, floor-to-ceiling battery cages inside massive warehouse complexes, are now either converting these same factories to “Cage Free” or building new ones, as you can see in the photo above and in this astonishing video.

And what is going into all of these “Cage Free” egg factories? You guessed it – cages. Bigger, more complex cages than before, but cages nonetheless, with no doors to the outside. The “farm” depicted in the photo and video is expected to produce 1.5 million eggs per day. I’ll repeat that, 1.5 million per day!

There is no question that placing 10 giant buildings the size of aircraft hangers on a flat piece of earth in the middle of nowhere allows for some serious labor efficiency in terms of handling and processing eggs. But we don’t think consumers would consider it farming. At our small farm, we deliberately stopped building new barns, becoming less efficient in the process, because we wanted instead to partner with other small farms around the country like our own.

Because we don’t want to be confused with the now misleading term Cage Free, at Nellie’s Free Range, we have adopted a Free Range standard certified by the respected Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) organization. Our floor style barns have no cages, period. There are doors every few feet, allowing one and all to come and go when the weather allows. We even have policies of our own for humane care that exceed those set by HFAC.

Please watch our video that helps explain the important difference between Certified Humane Free Range and Cage Free so you can be as informed as possible about the eggs you buy.

Future of Cage Free

Choosing a Different Future

 

The title of this egg industry video is “The Future of Cage Free Egg Production is Here.”  If you’re a hen, then the future looks kind of bleak.

Don’t get us wrong, at Nellie’s Free Range Eggs, we are very glad that the country has finally said no to some of the most inhumane practices of egg production: namely battery cages on factory farms. While it will take some time to happen, within a decade or so, most factory farms will have converted from caged production to cage free, or something like that at least. But as we have warned in the past, “cage free” isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

If you want to see what we mean, just watch this amazing video from a company seeking to supply the industry with its new “cage free barns.” I think you will agree that it looks more like they are building the next super villain’s secret desert missile facility for a James Bond film than it does a barn for animals.

We take a decidedly lower-tech approach to helping hens lay eggs. That’s why we’re Certified Humane and Free Range, and we don’t need helicopters in order to video the immensity of our farms (you can generally see them just by climbing a nearby tree). Though the music in the video is very stirring.