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Separating the good eggs from the bad

The Globe and Mail
Wed 31 Oct 2007

By Heidi Sopinka

Six billion eggs are cracked in Canadian kitchens each year.

Lately the choices are complex: Omega-3? Free-range? Organic? A University of Sydney study recently suggested that free-range chickens experience just as much stress as those in battery cages, mainly from fear of predators. Between animal welfare, price disparities and taste
preferences, how can you tell what is a good egg these days?

300

Number of eggs that can be produced in one to two years by a hen kept in a battery cage, which has a wire floor and is about the size of a sheet of paper. The natural amount would be closer to 18 or 20. Once the hens are considered spent, they are transported to a plant where they are
made into animal feed or compost, chicken pot pies, soup or other chicken byproducts.

2012

The year by which the European Union, the world's second-largest producer of eggs, will ban battery cages.

1 to 2

Number of square feet of floor space allotted for each free-range hen, which is also given access to the outdoors. The University of Sydney researchers found similar corticosterone levels (a hormone that indicates stress) in free- range and battery hens.

35

Number of cents it costs to buy a cage-free specialty egg, compared with about 19 cents for a battery egg. (Omega-3 hens - about 28 cents an egg - are fed a flax-infused diet but typically kept in cages.)

The bottom line

What's good for the chicken is good for the egg. But because free-range conditions and the amount of outdoor time is neither regulated nor policed in Canada , it's best to buy certified organic free-range eggs. These hens are fed an organic diet, and the farm is inspected for a long list of requirements. This not only means better animal welfare, but eggs that taste the way an egg should taste - farm fresh. Although certified organic free-range eggs require deeper pockets, remember this: The chicken's living conditions subsidize the true cost of the eggs you eat.

Sources

Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals

Canadian Federation of Humane Societies

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association

Canadian Agri-Food Research Council

Canadian Egg Marketing Agency