As we entered the animal area of the Western Fair, I noticed a big sign for The Egg Marketing Board and a friendly-looking couple manning the booth. I had questions and they had answers.
You may have heard that animal welfare advocates won a major victory last week. McDonald’s will now only buy eggs from farmers who have free-range chickens. These birds are allowed to roam where most laying hens are in cages. The idea is that a chicken with room to move is a happier chicken and has a better life.
This is human interference at its worst. Don’t believe me, believe the man who knows chickens best. The egg farmer.
While a chicken that can go for a nice stroll may seem like a great idea, there are reasons why it’s not. For starters, chickens aren’t roamers. They like to be close to each other. When you put a bunch of chickens on an open floor, they don’t do yoga or push-ups, they crowd together. I remember this from my single chicken-catching experience. They like to cuddle up. They even do it when they’re caged.
But even if that wasn’t the case, there’s a problem with their feed. You see, chickens like to eat their own poop. In a cage, which is large, by the way, they can’t get at their scat. On the floor, they will consume it. And because of that, they need to be medicated so they don’t get sick. A caged hen isn’t on medication. A loose chicken is, and it eats feces. Do you want a medicated fecal-fed egg? I don’t.
I’m all for animal welfare but not to the point of ridiculousness. Some well-meaning activists have decided a chicken thinks like a person, and therefore it needs more room to move. But they’ve omitted the poop and drug factor. A wandering chicken doesn’t mean a better egg or a happier chicken. The farmer, Darcy, also explained how the best cage-maker in the world can’t sell to his own countrymen in Germany because they have a cage-free rule that has put most egg farmers out of business. So in Poland, where there is no such law, they’re exporting eggs to Germany at two and three times the price. And the chickens are no happier. Only the activists are.