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Monday, November 19, 2007

The Truth about "Free Range" Eggs & Poultry

What about Free-Range?

A growing number of people are looking to "free-range" products as an alternative to factory farmed animal products. Free range farms vary greatly -- there are no legal standards. The only way to know for sure how the animals are being raised is to go to the farm, and to witness how the animal is slaughtered.

Eggs (and poultry) may be labeled as "free-range" if they have USDA-certified access to the outdoors. No other criteria -- such as environmental quality, size of the outside area, number of birds, or space per bird -- are included in this term. Typically, free-range hens are debeaked at the hatchery, have only 1 to 2 square feet of floor space per bird, and -- if the hens can go outside -- must compete with many other hens for access to a small exit from the shed, leading to a muddy strip saturated with droppings. Although chickens can live up to 12 years, free-range hens are hauled to slaughter after a year or two, or . Free-range male chicks are trashed at birth, just as they are in factory farms. Although free-range conditions may be an improvement over factory-farm conditions, they are by no means free of suffering.

The Associated Press reported on March 11, 1998:

Free-range chickens conjure up in some consumers minds pictures of contented fowl strolling around the barnyard, but the truth is, all a chicken grower needs to do is give the birds some access to the outdoorswhether the chickens decide to take a gambol or stay inside with hundreds or thousands of other birds, under government rules growers are free to label them free-range.

As all free-range animals are still viewed as objects to be killed for food, they are subject to abusive handling, transport, and slaughter. Free-range animals, like all animals used for their milk and eggs, are still slaughtered at a fraction of their normal life expectancy.

Here is an example of one "free-range" farm:

The Alameda Times StarMay 28, 2003

How one egg farmer has gone cage-free for 20 yearsPetaluma's Mahrt wanted to make his mark in natural foods

"We're the original, free-ranging chicken people," says Mahrt, a former California Egg Commission chairman.

Below are two pictures from his farm. Click to see a larger version.

For more information, visit Compassion Over Killing

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