Despite a significant drop-off since the 1950s, data shows that American egg consumption is once again on the rise. Today, the majority of commercial laying hens are kept in cramped, caged conditions on factory farms. In these barren enclosures, hens are unable to perform behaviors that are central to their welfare, such as laying eggs in nests, flapping their wings, dustbathing, scratching, or perching. This results in poor quality of life, and significant animal welfare consequences.
At an absolute minimum, the simplest thing you can do for laying hens is to look for cage-free eggs. Most eggs on grocery store shelves come from caged systems, where hens are confined in small cages with no access to the outdoors.
Avoiding eggs from caged hens is also better for your health! In fact, pasture-raised eggs often contain more omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and Vitamin E than eggs from caged systems.
And don’t forget: egg ingredients should also be a factor in your supermarket decision-making! Foods like mayonnaise, cakes, cookies, and pasta often contain eggs—and unless the packaging specifically says “cage-free,” they likely came from caged hens. A “cage-free” claim is better than no claim at all; however, a simple “cage-free” label on its own is not nearly as meaningful as an official certification. If buying eggs is part of your supermarket routine, look for third-party animal welfare certifications like Global Animal Partnership (GAP), Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), or Certified Humane. Check out our Know Your Labels page for more details. If you can’t find a certification on the label, look for the phrase “pasture-raised”—or “free range.”
Download our free Food Guide for more information about buying eggs!
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Know your labels
Labels and certifications can be confusing. We’re here to help!
About egg laying hens
Laying hens are bred specifically for egg laying.
Welfare issues for egg laying hens
In the US, the majority of eggs are produced using battery cage systems.
Higher welfare alternatives for hens
Higher welfare alternatives include free-range, cage-free, and enriched battery cage production systems.
How can I help?
There are a number of ways that you can help egg-laying hens.