“We are going to go beyond what a chicken needs and give chickens what they want.”
Jim Perdue (grandson of Perdue Foods founder)
Perdue has decided to give chickens more sunlight and tweak breeding. One goal is to diminish serious leg injuries caused by big breasts.
Where are we going? To the tradeoffs of humane treatment.
How To Make a Chicken Happy
Right now, cage free eggs account for less 10% of all egg sales. But most major retailers believe that soon you and I will want them. So Costco, Walmart and McDonald’s have said cage free is their goal.
In the past, the battery cage was the norm. No larger than a shoebox, the battery cage meant a chicken might never see sunlight nor spread her wings during her entire life.
The problem though is that cage free is not what we might imagine. Packed into aviaries, the chickens spread germs as they roam, have higher mortality rates. and can get pecked by their aggressive sisters. In addition, the farm workers gathering eggs experience more respiratory disease because of the dusty environment.
An alternative is a large cage where 60 birds can live. Compared to a cage free life, chickens in this enriched colony home lay more eggs, can stretch their wings, and have a lower mortality rate. However, for those committed to cage free, the image does not suffice.
The last possibility is the best. Organically raised in pastures, chickens can enjoy sunlight, space and dirt. However, if all chickens enjoyed the good life in a pasture, we would need an area bigger than the state of Massachusetts to accommodate them.
Our Bottom Line: Tradeoffs
Thinking economically, you can see selecting the life of an egg laying chicken is all about tradeoffs. As their treatment improves, so too does the cost. Defined as sacrifice, the cost relates to the health of the chickens and their caregivers as well as the expense. If all chickens had the best lives, we would be paying two to four times as much for our eggs.
I guess we can conclude that even with chickens, there is there is no such thing as a free lunch.