Soon, a group composed of many conventional thinkers in the food and agribusiness industries, calling itself the "Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply," is expected to release a report on various forms of housing egg-laying hens-including cramming them into barren cages so small they can't even fully open their wings, confining them in larger cages, and keeping them in cage-free environments.
The report's conclusion has been foregone from the start: despite the mountain of existing science showing it's best to not confine animals in cages, the Coalition appears ready to announce its defense of cage confinement. (In fact, in 2011, before any data whatsoever was collected for this project, the Coalition released a video propounding upon the "positive" aspects of cage production, without mentioning any of the severe animal welfare problems.)
Here are just some of the Coalition members:
- A group calling itself the Center for Food Integrity, run by the agribusiness crisis management firm CMA. Its leader is a consultant to campaigns aimed at defeating animal welfare measures, and its board contains long-time opponents of animal welfare improvements, including the National Pork Board, American Farm Bureau, and Burnbrae Farms (one of Canada's largest egg producers, exposed some time ago for letting its birds suffer in battery cages even as its workers were smashing the heads of chicks and then throwing them still alive into plastic garbage bags to suffocate).
- Some major egg producers that use cage confinement and that vocally oppose the move toward better treatment of the birds. These include Michael Foods, shown in undercover investigations to have left live hens confined in cages with dead birds, and hens caught in cage wires unable to escape, and Sparboe Farms, which campaigned against minimum requirements of care for laying hens even while most of its fellow large egg producers supported such standards.
- The Egg Farmers of Canada and Egg Farmers of Ontario, which advocate confining hens in cages.
- McDonald's USA, which has claimed that it is unsure which housing method is best for animals, despite McDonald's in Europe and Australia embracing 100 percent free-range eggs.
- University representatives who specifically favor cage confinement (including two who've written battery cage confinement standards in the past, and one of whom has testified that among the biggest concerns with a measure to give hens more room was that it "will ban the use of conventional cages" and prevent "producers from adopting enriched cages").
In releasing preliminary results on the studies, the coalition appeared to provide very little emphasis on hens' behavioral freedoms, and how attention to such needs improves their welfare. The Coalition didn't even report on any of the indicators that likely would have favored cage-free systems, such as fearfulness, bone strength, trapping-related injuries, comfort of the birds at resting and nesting, and dust-bathing duration, for example.