I am decoding food labels in alphabetical order, so while many labels can be on a carton of eggs, this blog posting is about Cage-Free, not Free Range or Organic. Now Cage-Free is also known as Free-Run, they are basically one in the same. However, I will also cover in this blog posting the term Comfort Coop which has an aka as Nest-Laid.
Just about 95% of the eggs produced in the United States come from hens in crowded confines. Cages not only control hens, they prevent the hens from movement. Normal behavior such as foraging, perching, nesting, wing-flapping and dust bathing are denied.
Each farm may have a slight difference in their housing system. Basically the hens live in an open barn, no cages, so wing-flapping is possible. Nest boxes are provided and this meets the hen's strong urge to nest during a laying cycle. The hens may also be given dust bathing material and perches, but this depends on the farmer and how the facility is built.
Cage-Free housing systems translates into freedom of movement, proper nesting and in many cases, perches along with dust bathing material. However, this is not the same as the Free Range label which will be covered in a future posting. Cage-Free does not mean access to the outside. In addition, there is no outside party overseeing this label. Therefore, how congested the barns are where the birds are raised along with other conditions are not always known.
Bill Lauto, GTG