How nice to wake up and see a farm animal welfare story on the front page of one of the world's most highly distributed newspapers, the Sunday New York Times. The August 12 edition has a front page story, by Kim Severson, headed "Suddenly, the Hunt Is on for Cage-Free Eggs."
"The toy industry had its Tickle Me Elmo, the automakers the Prius and technology its iPhone. Now, the food world has its latest have-to-have-it product: the cage-free egg.
"The eggs, from chickens raised in large, open barns instead of stacks of small wire cages, have become the latest addition to menus at universities, hotel chains like Omni and cafeterias at companies like Google. The Whole Foods supermarket chain sells nothing else, and even Burger King is getting in on the trend."
It tells us that chicken farmers, "question whether the birds are really better off, saying that keeping thousands of hens in tight quarters on the floor of a building can lead to hunger, disease and cannibalism."
Of course they have a vested interest in the question because converting to cage-free is expensive. But one of the positive aspects of the article is that it does blow away myths about cage-free being like Old MacDonald's farm.
First it describes battery cages -- the bottom of the barrel:
"In a battery cage, the area allotted to each chicken is about the size of a laptop computer. Opponents say that in such small spaces, chickens cannot stretch their wings, roost or engage in other natural behaviors."
(Go to http://www.hsus.org/farm/camp/nbe/ to see photos and video of the shocking conditions -- small cages jam-packed with hens.)
But then Severson's article tells us that "not all cage-free eggs are equal."
It tells us, "Eggs labeled organic and free-range come from chickens with access to the outdoors." Unfortunately the article does not mention that the "access" can be through a small opening at one end of a barn that holds thousands of hens, many of whom may never get near to the door.
About cage-free eggs, it warns us:
"But most cage-free chickens never peck in a barnyard during their lives, which last from 12 to 18 months. The term 'cage free' is lightly regulated. Companies get approval to use it on their labels through the Food Safety Inspection Service of the Agriculture Department, which does not actually inspect laying operations.
"Egg producers say that going cage-free does not always mean the chickens are living the good life."
When one looks at the video of battery cages, it is hard to doubt that cage-free, even though it offers a lifestyle so bad that many of use are unwilling to support it (especially now that there are so many great vegan deserts and breakfast foods on the market) is significantly better than battery-caged. Therefore it is heartening to read that the demand is increasing at such a fast pace that there is not always enough supply and "Whole Foods sometimes has to scale back the amount of prepared food and baked goods it makes."
Wholefoods had better start exploring more vegan prepared and baked goods!
The article ends with a strong quote from HSUS's Paul Shapiro, "While cage-free certainly does not mean cruelty-free, its a significant step in the right direction."
It presents a great opportunity for letters to the editor, appreciative of the coverage of animal issues and singing the praises of plant based diets.
The New York Times takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org
Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Remember that shorter letters are more likely to be published. And please be sure not to use any comments or phrases from me or from any other alerts in your letters. Editors are looking for original responses from their readers.
Yours and the animals',
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line. If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help the list grow by signing up. It is free.)
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Date: Sun Aug 12 20:29:59 2007
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An animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets.
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