Cage free by choice or by legislation?

For many people the idea of living the country dream is out of town, a few chickens for fresh eggs. We find the eggs are fresher and, without confinement of some sort, the risks greater as everything it seems wants to eat chicken.When a dog, coyote or coon kills your chickens you have no more eggs! This is why for protection many are kept confined at least at night.

While it’s a low input way of providing food for the table, when we keep chickens it’s typically for a family, or perhaps to sell the extra. We don’t want to feed hundreds of people or supply the restaurants…although there are many people without chickens who still want eggs. This means someone has to raise the chickens. For reasons of labor, feed efficiency and protection this meant a move to cages in a confinement system. We have a choice what to eat – the lower cost of the “big farm” eggs or free range or our own.

Groups such as the Humane Society of the United States aren’t happy with allowing choice and want to legislate no cages. It sounds great right? Chickens need to scratch the ground, we’re told, and indeed they seem quite happy doing that! The problem with it is, unlike the automated system that the egg rolls to the front off the cage, chickens in a pen you have to hunt for their eggs – then wonder if it’s really fresh or is it one you missed (and for how long)? When shipping eggs to other people this is unacceptable.

We’re told to look to the Europeans as Germany banned cages. All cage free. Yes indeed how is that working? “In February 2010, the average price of eggs was 11 percent higher than one year ago. The price of consumption eggs has risen notably in recent months. This is predominantly caused by increased exports to Germany.”

11% in a month…ok perhaps not too bad. Those $2 eggs are now $2.22 – a quarter for the chickens right? Not exactly. The above link shows more. “Dutch exports of consumption eggs to Germany grew by over 2 billion to nearly 7.5 billion. If exports increase, prices go up and occasionally Dutch consumers were faced with empty supermarket shelves. The shortage of eggs in Germany was the direct result of a ban on battery cages introduced on 1 January 2010. As battery cages were dismantled, the egg-production process stalled. In the Netherlands and the rest of the European Union, the ban on battery cages will take effect from 1 January 2012.”

Not only the price of eggs is affected. Everything with eggs in it also is faced with higher costs if not shortages.

Now..bring that to America. For the next week do this – look at everything you eat that has eggs in it. From the meatloaf to the sausage egg biscuit to the cupcake for dessert. Look at right now the demand for Easter eggs – hard boiled that make wonderful snacks or eggs Benedict. Bread. Look at labels. We don’t have, normally food shortages here. Take half of those foods away.

What will you eat? Where will you get it? The last couple of years chick demand has been high with many hatcheries listing breeds/varieties as unavailable due to demand. Without planning now there are not enough young birds to fulfill the demand. Places like Slow Money Farm, CSA’s and other ideas won’t exist if not supported now to be growing into demand and, even at that, there’s only so much most want to do. Again – one coyote getting into a field, one loose dog and their chickens are gone too.

Think for a minute about your food! It’s too important to take for granted!