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Cage free and free range don't mean much on factory farms, which are synonymous with animal cruelty.

factory farming cows
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"A healthy attitude is contagious, but don't wait to catch it from others, be a carrier!" Tom Stoppard

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The food industry uses misleading labels like cage free, free range, and grass-fed to avert animal cruelty concerns

cage free eggs carton

Cage free eggs and free range chickens sound great, like chickens happily frolicking around barns and pastures. If I hear free range I think of chickens outdoors, dust-bathing, perching, and going after their normal instinctive behavior. Wouldn't you too?

Unfortunately this is far from true. Find out why below:

Cage Free Eggs

free roaming chickens
This is what we THINK
cage free chickens look like

While cage free hens have more space to roam and enjoy greater welfare than their caged counterparts, it is important to know this method is not cruelty-free:

  • Cage free simply means that thousands of chickens in one factory farm warehouse are no longer stuffed into small cages, but are now all held in one large area. They don't have access to the outside, but they are allowed to walk and spread their wings, and to lay their eggs in nests.
  • Conditions in these cage free pens are very overcrowded and the chickens are still given antibiotics to avoid disease.
  • cage free hens
    This is what cage free chickens
    DO look like

  • Cage free farms typically buy their hens from the same hatcheries that provide to battery-cage farms. These hatcheries kill the male chicks right after hatching - more than 200 million each year in the US alone, often with insanely cruel methods like stuffing the birds alive into trash bags or throwing them into choppers.
  • Most cage free hens still have their beaks burned off to avoid attacking and injuring other animals in the crowded conditions. Debeaking is a painful mutilation which can lead to infections and starvation of the bird.

  • Cage free hens live better than battery-cage hens, however the only way to avoid cruelty entirely is to give up eggs altogether.

  • Even cage free hens are typically slaughtered before they are 2 years old - less than half their normal life expectancy.
  • Cage free hens suffer from the same lung lesions and ammonia burns as hens in cages.
  • Some cage free and battery-cage farms still use starvation as method to force the birds into laying more eggs for fear of dying without securing offspring.

The reality about free range egg farms: Michele Alley-Grubb, cofounder of Colorado’s Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, shows us just how willfully wrong and misleading the labels “cage-free eggs” and “free range hens” are used to lead-on consumers.

Free Range or Free Roaming Chickens

The US Department of Agriculture requires that free range chickens used for meat have access to the outdoors. That sounds nice but unfortunately isn't really possible.

    male chicks in trash bag
    Male chicks in trash bag

  • Broilers intended for slaughter are artificially bred to grow very large breasts very fast. This comes at the cost of their mobility. The broiler industry does not pump the birds full of growth hormones for them to roam around outdoors and use up their fat as energy - after all the fat is intended as flesh for the consumer. The birds are overdrugged so heavily and are so obese that they can hardly move; sometimes even crush their own legs under their unnatural weight.
  • Outdoor access can also mean a small hole in the warehouse to a tiny fenced-in lot with little or no vegetation. That alone would be good enough to comply with USDA rules.
  • Further, the door to the outdoors could only be open for minutes in a day, and again, that would be good enough to be certified with the "free range" label.
  • Free range hens are still painfully debeaked, just like battery-caged and cage free ones.
  • The birds still have to endure extreme crowding and filthy, disease-inflicting living environments. In "real" outdoor facilities, investigators observed that the birds were subjected to all weathers without shelter from either heat or cold.

"If you go to a free range farm and expect to see a bunch of chickens galloping around in pastures, you're kidding yourself." (25)

The Faces of Free Range Farming
- Courtesy of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

Find out more about animal cruelty to chickens.

The USDA is not in the position to verify birds' living conditions on farms that have applied for a free range label. They solely rely on the egg producer's testimony.

This is the same as relying on food producers to follow the Humane Slaughter Act. We know from investigation footage that it is drastically violated daily all over America. Also remember that poultry is not protected by any law, even though it makes up 95% of all animals slaughtered for food in the US.

If you believe that meat, dairy, and egg consumption is healthy, I encourage you to brush-up on the facts. Thousands of scientific studies show that there is no better healthy diet than a plant-based one.

Take control of your own health today and try meat-free! Start with a few days and see how you feel.

For more information check out our healthy eating guidelines and tasty vegetarian recipes.

Are Humane Farming Methods Really Better Than Factory Farming?

cute chick

I will be upfront with you here: there shouldn't be any animal farming at all, period. The promotion of humane farming methods can lead to the misperception that they are the desired final solution. This is not the case - only a no-kill solution and abolition of all animal suffering is a real final solution. Animal rights groups are divided over the merit of promoting humane farming reforms as smaller short-term goals, and the demand to abolish killing for food and other means altogether.

Factory farming is just a symptom of the problem - not the problem itself. We live in a society where killing, cruelty, and abuse of living creatures is acceptable and even encouraged. Killing animals for food, research, fashion, entertainment, and sport is considered normal, natural, and necessary. Nothing is normal and necessary about the deliberate infliction of suffering and death. We do not need to harm our fellow sentient creatures for our survival or health. The opposite is true: if we stop exploiting and consuming animals we would live longer, healthier, and most certainly happier, as we would be more in sync with our inherent moral beliefs and values.

Most people want to be humane and do the right thing. It is important to address our false ideology that animal exploitation for food and other means is natural. Changing minds and hearts is possible with truthful, untainted information, and introduction of better alternatives.

I know that people do not change until they are psychologically ready, and no one knows how long this may take for the individual person. My goal is to ease the path towards this readiness, every step of the way.

How about giving meat-free a try? You can start just one day a week with these easy tips!

Go back to top of Cage free Eggs page or return to Food Animals - How Healthy Eating Saves Animal Lives.


(25) Lara McGlashan, "Soul Food," Joe Weider's Muscle; Fitness Jun. 2005

Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended as medical advice. It is solely based on the experience and information researched and gathered from reputable sources by Ina Mohan. Please consult with your certified healthcare provider to ensure that you can safely follow the healthy eating guidelines provided on this website. Ina Mohan encourages you to research and verify all health and diet information that you receive, particularly from sources that may have a commercial interest in disputing the healing capabilities of the human body with wholesome nutrition.