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Would you pay more for cage-free eggs?

Even before the recent salmonella outbreak, America's egg industry was struggling to fend off another threat: allegations that it was cruel to chickens.

Egg producers are alarmed at efforts to ban small cages for hens, a movement that has gained momentum in an increasing number of states.

The cages are common throughout the industry but have been increasingly targeted by animal-welfare groups as inhumane and unsanitary. But major egg producers say switching to cage-free methods will do little to improve safety and will add to the cost of a dozen eggs. Read the full article.

By Jodi Westrick  |  September 3, 2010; 12:17 PM ET  | Category:  National Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Anyone who has watched the videos that depict the conditions these chickens are forced to live in would have to be one heartless SOB to say they wouldn't pay an extra dollar to get them more space. It's appalling to see how we treat animals, but more so when we are exploiting them like this, with no thought to their comfort while we do so.

Posted by: bryangalt1 | September 3, 2010 12:43 PM

"Cage free" is just a marketing term to make people pat themselves on the back for choosing a kinder alternative. There is plenty of undercover footage available online and an entire sad movie about the falsity of cage free being at all kind.

http://www.fowlplaymovie.com/display_video.php?id=9

Posted by: sarahabc | September 3, 2010 12:50 PM

SARAHABC has it right. Chickens can be uncaged but still pumped with hormones and antibiotics, fed low-grade chicken meat, and forced to produce three times as many eggs as is natural for them to produce. Buying cage-free eggs is a step in the right direction, but remedies the food industry about as much as a reusable grocery bag remedies global warming.

Posted by: alyssak | September 3, 2010 1:11 PM

The ONLY way to make sure the chickens are treated humanely is to purchase your eggs at your local farmers' market, or keep your own chickens. The answer is LOCAL and SUSTAINABLE.

Posted by: CellBioProf | September 3, 2010 1:14 PM

Years ago when I realized how chickens were mass producing locked in small cages..I buy only organic from farms that I know are not caging and hormone pumping animals.

This is nothing but inhumane greed and the sick condition of humans to do this despicable act.

Posted by: mac7 | September 3, 2010 1:17 PM

I buy caged and organic eggs every time I go to the store.

Those mass produced eggs scare the crap out of me, especially, after I watched some documentary or a 60 minutes segment about companies that mass produce chickens and eggs on these huge corporate hatcheries.

Yuk!

Posted by: lcarter0311 | September 3, 2010 1:33 PM

I already do buy organic humane-certified eggs from my local Whole Foods. They cost a lot more, but I am not worried about the safety and quality of those eggs. I feel like I'm helping a small family business too.

Posted by: greyK | September 3, 2010 1:36 PM

The reality of the situtation is that the FDA is in collosion with the chicken industry. The chicken we buy in supermarket is crap, not suitable for human consumption. To fry these darn chicken, one does not need a drop of oil, as a thick layer of fat undergirds the skin. I would feed this crap to my dog!

Posted by: fgominho | September 3, 2010 1:44 PM

The question is biased. Of course everybody wants safer eggs. It does not necessarily follow that cage free is safer. The question should be worded, "Would you be willing to pay more for cage free eggs?" Let the reader decide the value proposition. It may be for humane reasons, maybe for perceptions of safety, quality, etc.

Posted by: DonRoberto1 | September 3, 2010 2:05 PM

I pay $3 per dozen for eggs, almost always from people and chickens that I know-- and they taste better! Check out your local farmers market, and get to know the folks.

And we get delicious pork ribs & sausage, grass fed beef, and lamb this way too.
All locally raised and processed. The ossabow hogs that provide our ribs only have one bad day in their lives.

Posted by: sgovus | September 3, 2010 2:06 PM

The last time I bought eggs that weren't cage-free was the day I visited a facility using battery cages and saw what it involved. Whatever the imperfections of "cage-free", there's no excuse for the cruelty of those cages. None!

Posted by: GilesM | September 3, 2010 2:19 PM

For years I have bought free range, organically fed chickens and their eggs. The price, compared to the quality and taste, is negligible.

Unfortunately, not everyone has ready access to free range, organically fed chickens and their eggs (i.e. healthy). They are forced to rely on the understaffed FDA to oversee the safety of their food, which hasn't been proving very reliable during the past few years.

The latest outbreak was in Senator Harkin's state of Iowa. "Coincidentally" Senator Harkin also Chairs the two government committees that control the FDA and oversight of the safety of our food source.

Would I be willing to pay more for chickens and eggs raised by a local organic-certified farmer vs rely on current the good ol' boy political networking system that is supposed to oversee the safety of our food sources?

Duh!

Posted by: asmith1 | September 3, 2010 2:19 PM

" But major egg producers say switching to cage-free methods will do little to improve safety and will add to the cost of a dozen eggs."

I'd really like to hear from someone other than the big corporate food producers on this. The above statement is about as valuable as ones about green energy from big oil companies.

Posted by: VAreader | September 3, 2010 2:23 PM

"Paying more" is a rather ambiguous concept--to the point of almost being meaningless. If you put some actual price-tags on the cost increases that might be necessary--say, $1 per dozen eggs, $2 per dozen eggs, $5 per dozen eggs--, I think you'd get a more accurate reflection of public sentiment on this matter.

Posted by: cocktails42 | September 3, 2010 2:30 PM

Cage-free eggs and feed lot-free beef. There are USDA-approved butchers/ packers around the DC area who sell pieces (not the entire animal) of meat retail. Of course, they're more expensive, but you also get more variety; for instance, the wonderful, clean taste of Boer goat. And your money goes to only two places, the butcher and the farmer.

Posted by: HookedOnThePost | September 3, 2010 2:45 PM

Couldn't agree more, Vareader. The auto industry claimed airbags would make cars too expensive. How many cars today are made without airbags. The big egg producers say let the market handle it. Well ok then. How about you put a picture on every egg carton of the miserable conditions those hens live in. How about you have a video tour on your farm website walking down the aisle of those lovely cages so people can see where their food really comes from. And don't forget to include shots of baby chick beaks being clipped and burned off so when they grow up to be hens living on top of each other they don't peck each other to death. Then offer the consumer a second box of eggs that's 25 cents more and see which one they pick. That's market driven. If operating ethically puts you out of business then you shouldn't be in business in the first place.

Posted by: genxer | September 3, 2010 2:48 PM

This "article" is nothing more than the usual rubbish trotted out animal rights nuts, very much like the lunatic that invaded Discovery earlier this week. Lets get a few facts straight, so folks will actually understand what they are "voting for". Free range eggs, at a Safeway or other large chain super market, are $4.50 a dozen. That is the minimum price. They go up from there. At the same time, Safeway sells 18 packs of fancy AA large eggs for $1.80, or $1.08 a dozen. Try, then, asking people if they will around 4 times more money for politically correct food. The average food cost, in this country for an adult male (USDA Food plan, moderate cost plan) is $264.30. Given the cost factor, and it IS an accurate average cost increase for organic foods, grass fed beef, free range chickens and eggs, etc. of 4.166, that average monthly cost for food balloons to $1,101.25. The USDA minimum diet, thrift food budget for that same male goes from jumps to $645.73. So, the question to ask is, "Would you be willing to pay more three times as much money for a starvation diet in order to satisfy the whims of the animal rights crowd?" I think the answer would be NO! The average family simply could not afford that kind of increase and the result would be wide spread starvation, health problems, and death.

citation: "Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, July 2010" -http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodCost-Home.htm

Posted by: mibrooks27 | September 3, 2010 3:59 PM

I DONT BUY COMMERICIAL MILK,YOGURT,BUTTER BREAD AN CERIALS, WATER, LEMONAIDE,PEANUT BUTTER, PEANUTS, JAMS & JELLYS,CHOCOLET YOGURT ICECREAM, WAFFLE CONES. I BUY ALL MINE ARE FROM BRAUMS FARMERS ALL NATURAL NO HORMORNES IN THEM.

Posted by: JWTX | September 3, 2010 4:13 PM

You have to wonder whether these idiots who profess such concern over the living conditions of dumb farm animals are equally exercised over the abortion mill down the street. If so, then I might be inclined to give their opinions due consideration. If not, then they seriously need to go stuff themselves.

Posted by: thebump | September 3, 2010 4:31 PM

You people really need to got life!
WHO CARES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: blhfish | September 3, 2010 4:39 PM

How can you vote YES!!! God allow humans to eat for our nourishment. WHITE people are so stupid!!!

Posted by: clifton3 | September 3, 2010 4:46 PM

In my neighborhood, poor section of the Bronx, the cage free eggs cost $4.00 a dozen. I can afford that on and off. I guess they are charging $2.00 of those $4.00 to keep your conscious clean.

That's the problem with the 'conscious' eating: they rip you off. Hard to become a vegetarian for the same reason.

Posted by: cintronlourdes | September 3, 2010 4:59 PM

Aside from the horrific treatment of chickens in factory farms, I will attest that eggs from cage-free chickens taste better.

As flaky as it sounds, I always say you can "taste the happy" LOL

Posted by: jromaniello | September 3, 2010 5:43 PM

I pay under $3 a dozen for cage-free eggs at Trader Joe's.

mibrooks, your post is ugly. Just because some of us actually care about the world we live in doesn't mean we are all like the mentally disturbed guy who stormed the Discovery Chennel Bldg. On the contrary, I'm guessing you'll find that most murderers are not vegetarians or environmentalists. They are meat eaters and can't spell "environmentalist."

Posted by: pepperjade | September 3, 2010 5:50 PM


This product is available to all who wish to pay more for it. The political question is whether to deny the opportunity to buy at lower prices the conventional method of efficiently producing eggs? Do you love chickens more than poor people?

Posted by: edbyronadams | September 3, 2010 6:32 PM

For the past several years, I have purchased organically raised eggs produced by free-range, cage-free chickens fed a natural and organic diet. Not only is that a more humane way to treat chickens, but the eggs taste better, are more nutritious and safer. I spent my early childhood only eating organic food because that's how all food was once produced. I have fed chickens, gathered their eggs and then eaten them when they got to old to lay eggs. I helped to clean chickens after my grandpa chopped their heads off with an axe. I've gone back to organic food to protect my health and the environment.

Posted by: linyo | September 3, 2010 7:00 PM

I already be caged free, the only problem is that its unregulated as to just what caged free really means. I just hope I am not being Bullsh!tted by the livestock industry, just like it is now well known that many cattle raisers are feeding their cows dead chickens and manure as the USDA again looks the other way. So god only knows what kind USDA McDonalds beef is. McDonalds has become so bad that Ronald McDonald has even refused to represent them. Notice how Ronald McDonald is no longer in any of the commercials.

Posted by: BeaverCleavage | September 3, 2010 8:19 PM

The ONLY way to make sure you're getting "cage free" eggs, is buy from a local source.

The goddam government can't trusted to pour p!ss out of a boot, let alone regulate anything effectively.

Posted by: veerle1 | September 3, 2010 9:36 PM

Eggs are one of the cheapest foods at the supermarket. I'd easily pay 10-20% more not just for food safety, but for better treatment of animals. I'm not a vegetarian, but current food production techniques are inhumane and unhealthy for the animals and the consumers.

Posted by: AxelDC | September 3, 2010 10:18 PM

I already pay more and buy the cage-free eggs. I have to hope that the eggs for which I'm paying extra really do come from cage-free laying hens.

Posted by: cassandra9 | September 3, 2010 10:46 PM

This is a perfect example of how little respect journalists have for statistics. The article that led to this poll said we really don't know if more "humane" treatment would result in a diminished threat of salmonella, but the poll question strongly suggests it does. And in any event, the fine print in the poll admits that it is meaningless. The Post has a rather sophisticated audience, and whoever does this useless poll is revealing his or her disdain for your readership.

Posted by: jonfran | September 3, 2010 10:53 PM

I already buy cage free eggs from a local chicken ranch that doesn't use antibiotics or hormones in the chicken feed. Start asking around at your local farmer's market and you'll probably find a farmer in your area to treats chicken in a more humane fashion. Buy local! The eggs also taste better.

Posted by: patriot17 | September 3, 2010 11:23 PM

Regarding JONFRAN's comment, "humane" treatment includes good sanitation practices, which will most certainly reduce the risk of salmonella.

Contamination of our food supply rarely comes from small farms; it comes mostly from large agribusiness factories. That's why in recent years we've had national health alerts for contaminated foods such as beef and spinach.

If you buy meat and eggs from small local farms like I do you can visit the farm and see how they treat the animals. Every year there is a farm tour in my area, so I can see that the egg ranch that I buy eggs from is treating their chickens well and is using good sanitation practices. I don't worry about salmonella contamination of the eggs I buy, I know how they're cared for.

Posted by: patriot17 | September 3, 2010 11:37 PM

I buy cage-free only as a last resort when organic, pasture-raised eggs are not available. Support your local farmer by buying eggs direct at the farmer's market, and support regulations that allow backyard hens to raise your own.

Posted by: ChezSheep | September 3, 2010 11:49 PM

how well resasearched are the articles in WAPO-or anyother of the few nespapers left today- the article isself raised some doubt about the data on where the salmonela problem comes fro- some of the commentarywas even more specific

the current mass caging of hens seems startingly cruel and should be rejwected on its own faults BUT shame on the Post and most newspapers for failing to do tehir own homework- which should be their hallmark-
first the hen then the egg-first the solid research then the article

Posted by: 27anon72 | September 7, 2010 7:19 AM

I already pay more for cage -free eggs. We buy locally raised organic eggs from pastured chickens. Fortunately they are readily available in our area (Ohio). As someone who makes a living advising farmers on high-yield organic and sustainable production methods, I have to say that the media and Congress are still missing the boat on the whole food safety issue, mostly because they are not willing to seriously question the basic assumptions behind the industrial food system in terms of both safety and long term sustainability.

Too many in Congress are bowing to the hysteria (whether real or perceived) of their urban, agriculture-ignorant constituents, and the result will be food safety legislation that essentially gives industrial ag a free pass to continue working as they mostly have, with very slightly improved food safety, and at no real cost to large corporate producers.

The downside will be that small, organic and sustainable producers will be further marginalized in the marketplace, and squeezed economically trying to meet regulations that have no bearing on how they produce food. It is worth noting that to date, not a single case of food borne illness has been traced back to animals or crops raised the way most small scale sustainable and organic producers manage their farms. The problems lie in the ways industrial producers raise and process their products (processing practices may well be the bigger problem).

Posted by: kg1957 | September 7, 2010 10:26 AM

>> cintronlourdes wrote: That's the problem with the 'conscious' eating: they rip you off.

There are many reasons why organics are more expensive: federal subsidies artificially lower the price of non-organics, automation of animal processing is cheaper (unless you factor in the costs of recalls and consumer illness), etc.

That doesn't mean the organic producers are "ripping you off".

Posted by: egc52556 | September 7, 2010 11:36 AM

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