so what does "cage free" REALLY mean anyhow?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by mommy9994, May 1, 2008.

  1. mommy9994

    mommy9994 Songster

    Mar 10, 2008
    central VA
    I was looking at "cage free" eggs yesterday at Walmart. I was wondering, what does that really mean? Technically, factory meat chickens are "cage free", that doesn't mean that they are free range, nor that they ever see real daylight. I'm certain that commercial egg layers, even "cage free" don't get to scratch up bugs or pick leaves. Does anyone have any insight on how commercial "cage free" birds are raised?
  2. chickenannie

    chickenannie Songster

    Nov 19, 2007
    They can still be in a confinement building, windowless with thousands of chickens packed in, living directly on the ground and breathing fecal dust. They just aren't in separate cages. Caged birds are often in cages stacked high, layer on layer with a narrow catwalk in between for the people to walk though.
  3. fullhouse

    fullhouse Songster

    Apr 14, 2008
    Cage free is "in a shed", like broilers, more space than a battery hen, but not "roomy".

    ETA: I saw the requirements for that labeling somewhere and was very sad. I will not buy another store egg if I can help it.
    Last edited: May 1, 2008
  4. Flyman39

    Flyman39 Songster

    Dec 24, 2007
    West Virginia
    It is a pretty good bet that it is a marketing ploy to play on the psycology of people who are concerned about battery hens. Maybe they are from flocks that are kept in Big free roam houses or thay may even be free range but my money is on the marketing ploy. I am not bashing Wal mart . It is just the way marketing is done in everything anymore.
  5. mommy9994

    mommy9994 Songster

    Mar 10, 2008
    central VA
    that's exactly what I was thinking. It's not just Walmart, I've seen the "cage free" eggs at Kroger and Foodlion too. The price was only a few cents more than the other eggs, so I figured they couldn't have it that much better-- oh, they were "hand collected" too
  6. Portia

    Portia Songster

    Feb 29, 2008
    South Central PA
    There is a very interesting book called The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michale Pollan that discusses the general techniques used by Petaluma's for raising 'cage free/free range', 'organic' chickens (not sure if this is also used for layers). Anyhow, the chickens are kept inside but federal rules require organic chickens have 'access to the outdoors'. As such, a fenced grassy yard runs along the length of each chicken shed. At 5 weeks or so (no sooner because they are antibiotic free and must be kept isolated to deter disease) little doors are opened and the chickens allowed to venture into the yards. As we all know, chickens are creatures of habit and with their food, water and housing inside they rarely pluck up the courage to venture out. Mind you these are also of broiler stock and thus they are nearing the 7-8 week slaughter weight which makes them precarious on their scrawny little legs.
    This is just something I read, mind you it is only from one source, but thought I'd pass it on as food for thought in the industrial free range/organic debate.
  7. SeaChick

    SeaChick Songster

    Apr 25, 2007
    Southern Maine
    The Omnivore's Dilemma is one of my fave books. have you read his new follow-up In Defense of Food? Highly recommended.
    I now go to great lengths to source local pastured meats for us. We've been buying whole organic pastured pigs/cows and splitting them with other families. Tracking down pastured broilers this summer, and a heritage-breed turkey for Thanksgiving. It's a whole lot more work than going to the supermarket but we really enjoy it. Makes us feel better, tastes better, and it's really fun to meet the farmers. All good stuff.
  8. lynxpilot

    lynxpilot In the Brooder

    Jan 19, 2008
    I second the vote for Omnivore's Dilemma. My daughter is vegetarian and I asked her to read it. Haven't heard back yet.

    That book isn't the only source that verifies how chicken factories do business. I'm hoping to establish a strong local market here for eggs, poultry, beef, and produce. I think it would be great to take it out of the hands of the factories. Of course the USDA (which should not even exist) is always in the way.
  9. Colored Egg Farmer

    Colored Egg Farmer Chicken overload

    I do Cage Free eggs I have windows but they are not about to range.

    I really wish there was a national Cage free orginization like the UEP. (United Egg Producers Certified program)

    And my family ownes a commercial poultry operation (one of the few who still own there own chickens) We own around 60 thousand which is small compared to some of the big companies.
    Last edited: May 1, 2008
  10. Wolf-Kim

    Wolf-Kim Songster

    Jan 25, 2008
    Cage free just means just that, there are no 'cages'. This usually means they are confined to a building and they have to be 'hand collected' other wise you'll have hundreds of eggs rotting on the floors of the chicken house. Cage free is still much better than battery cages, at least they are allowed to move around even though chances are it's still crowded. Over the two(Cage free or battery eggs) choose cage free, because at least it's a step in the right direction. I do not buy store eggs if I can help it, if I do I hunt for cage free/free ranging. Commercial farms in general are never going to be the idealic non-crowded flock free ranging on green pastures. With such a wide demand for chicken products we can only improve the conditions, I do not believe that they'll ever be "great" but they could definately be better.

    Free ranging is another funny one. From my understanding, as long as your chickens have access to an outdoor run(run still equals confinement) they are Free Range birds. Interesting no?

    We just can't expect the commercial producers to turn hundreds of birds loose so they can "truly" free range at will. There would be no profit, because now your dealing with predators and you're having to hire people to search the bushes and forests for eggs.

    Still cage free is better than battery cages, in my opinion anyway.


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