Where do my eggs come from?

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Organic vs battery farm egg
We eat 29 million eggs in the UK every day and the average person eats 173 eggs per year. But how do you choose the eggs you buy?

Eggs in the UK are produced in four ways:

Laying cage system (battery farming)
This is the most common way of producing eggs. In 2006 63% of eggs in the UK were produced in this way.
What is it?
Hens are kept in cages with a sloping mesh floor so the eggs roll out of reach of the bird for collection.
Why is it bad?
Battery farming is widely thought to be cruel and unnecessary. Each hen has space the same size as an A4 sheet of paper, or the size of a shoe box. They are put into cages at 18 weeks old and will not come out again for another 54 weeks, when they'll be slaughtered. They will never raise their heads properly or stretch their wings. Sheds are artificially lit for around 17 hours a day to create the maximum amount of egg-laying time. Confinement prevents normal behaviour and causes damage and deformities to feathers, feet and bones.
Why is it good?
Because the system is almost completely automated and the farming is intensive, producing lots of eggs, they can be sold very cheaply. This means that those on low incomes can still gain the nutritional benefits of eggs.

Barn systems
Around 5% of eggs sold in the UK are produced in the barn system.
What is it?
Hens are kept in barns or sheds, instead of cages, where they can move around and stretch their wings, but they can't go outside.
Why is it bad?
Sometimes barns are so crowded, with some keeping up to 16,000 hens in large sheds, they're barely able to move around.
Why is it good?
They are provided with perches, platforms, nest boxes and litter areas.

Free range
Around 32% of eggs in the UK are produced by the free range system.
What is it?
Hens are kept in barns, but must have access to an outside area from the barn.
Why is it bad?
These barns can still be cramped, with up to 12 hens in the same floor space as four washing machines and if the barns are particularly full, some hens may never make it to the front to get outside.
Why is it good?
Hens can behave as they would in the wild, graze on natural vegetation and have a varied diet.

Hens producing organic eggs are always free range.
What is it?
Hens are kept in flocks of less than 500, are fed on at least 80% organic non-genetically-modified feed and have free access to organic land.
Why is it bad?
It's more expensive and labour-intensive to keep hens like this. Therefore, these eggs are more expensive for supermarkets to sell, making them more expensive for us to buy.
Why is it good?
Some egg producers keep their hens in small flocks on organic land. These hens have the best quality of life while laying.

Egg statistics from

- Find out where your chicken comes from
- What's the price difference between organic and non-organic chickens and eggs?

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