There are a lot of things one needs to keep in mind when trying to buy food that matches the budget and values of their family. Even though convenience, taste, and price are still the key drivers of food purchasing decisions, animal welfare is also steadily becoming a priority for many modern shoppers. Hence, top egg farmers in the United States, such as Hillandale Farms are striving to ensure the best possible quality of care for their hens.
Hillandale Farms mentions a few Animal Welfare Certifications related to egg farming
There are many claims and certifications related to animal welfare found on egg cartons. The animal welfare programs within the animal agriculture community are generally species-specific. They put a high degree of emphasis on meeting standards, sharing tools, and educating farmers and consumers on best practices for animal welfare.
The majority of egg laying hens in the United States unfortunately is still raised in battery cages. These hens have to live in a compact environment and often do not have enough space to spread their wings. This creates a pretty stressful environment for the hens, and can majorly hamper their well-being. Hence, it is always better for consumers to try and buy cage-free or free-range eggs.
Hens typically have adequate space to move around, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests in a care-free system. These hens are also able to engage in natural behaviors like dust bathing and perching. Farms following the cage-free approach are generally third-party audited. “Free-range” system has also become popular in the domain of egg farming today. As per the standards of USDA [United States Department of Agriculture], “free-range” means that the hens have access to the outdoors. Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) is a popular non-profit certification organization that works to improve the lives of farm animals in food production. The HFAC’s Certified Humane® “Free-Range” requirement is two square feet per bird and hens must be outdoors for at least six hours per day, as long as the weather permits.
Top egg farmers in the United States, like Hillandale Farms, are usually UEP certified. United Egg Producers (UEP) certification includes a wide range of hen care guidelines, as well as science-based animal well-being standards. These standards have been set as per the recommendations of a scientific advisory committee. The UEP also continually researches and adapts its program with the aim of improving hen welfare. UEP certification program addresses both cage guidelines and cage-free guidelines. About 85% of eggs produced in the U.S. are UEP Certified.
Another widely accepted certification program in the egg farming industry is the American Humane certification. This certification puts emphasis on discerning humane farming practices in all types of livestock production, including egg farming. As per the American Humane guidelines, egg farmers must provide hens with ample space to move around, and make sure that they have access to a nutritious diet and clean water as well. These farmers have to follow humane handling procedures and ensure that the living conditions of hens are safe and comfortable.