Making “National Egg Month” for the Birds | Civil Eats

Making “National Egg Month” for the Birds

Just like every other year, parents are shelving traditions of dyeing and hiding Easter eggs. And just like every other year, post-Easter egg demand is inevitably declining, leaving producers with a surplus. To ease the financial burden of this annual drop in egg consumption, the American Egg Board declares May “National Egg Month” and attempts to woo food editors and morning talk shows into promoting eggs.

But one thing the egg industry likely won’t trot out in its PR effort is its sordid animal welfare record.

Arguably the most abused animals in all of U.S. agribusiness, nearly 280 million egg-laying hens live in barren, wire battery cages so restrictive they can’t even spread their wings. Each bird has less space than a sheet of letter-sized paper on which to live for eighteen months before she’s slaughtered. The birds can’t nest, dust bathe, perch, or walk—they endure lives wrought with suffering.

Dr. Bernard Rollin of the Department of Animal Science at Colorado State University states that “virtually all aspects of hen behavior are thwarted by battery cages….The most obvious problem is lack of exercise and natural movement….Research has confirmed what common sense already knew—animals built to move must move.”

But common sense doesn’t always prevail in the world of animal agribusiness, and it’s generally the animals who pay the price. Not only are these birds often abused in ways that would result in criminal prosecution if they were dogs or cats rather than hens, they have almost no legal protection from cruelty. No federal laws regulate the treatment of hens on egg factory farms. And most states’ cruelty codes exempt common agricultural practices, no matter how abusive.

There’s some movement in the right direction, however. In November, Californians made their state—number one in the country for agriculture—the first in the nation to ban battery cages. Demand for animal welfare improvements is now causing some egg producers to literally rip out their cages and convert to cage-free systems. In fact, one national egg producer, Radlo Foods, recently announced it’s getting rid of all its battery cages and becoming completely cage-free.

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

The trend is increasingly clear: The confinement of hens in battery cages is simply out of step with the moral sentiments of the American public, and the demand for change will only continue to grow. Food retailers—such as McDonald’s—would be wise to take notice and start improving animal welfare in their supply chains.

In honor of “National Egg Month,” egg producers should accelerate this trend and retire their battery cages to make way for cage-free hens. These birds’ lives will be much better than those who would have suffered from permanent immobilization in their barren cages.

It’s hard to imagine a better way for the egg industry to celebrate this month it’s dedicated to itself.

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

Paul Shapiro is the senior director of The Humane Society of the United States’ factory farming campaign. Follow him at Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

  1. MFR
    Great points!

    We can all support animals every time we pick up our forks by leaving animal products, like eggs from caged hens, off our plates.

    Check out for more information about the cruelty of battery cage eggs, and for info about eating a healthy, delicious vegetarian/vegan diet!
  2. well said! how long can the industry ignore this issue? it's not going away, no matter how hard they try to divert the attention away from the undeniable cruelty on egg factory farms. check out for photos and video to see what life is like inside a battery cage
  3. Liz
    Great post. It's amazing that McDonald's hasn't done the right thing yet.
  4. Michael B
    The egg industry should be ashamed of itself for its routine mistreament of egg-layhing hens. Most people are horrified to know that the majority of hens are crammed into tiny cages where they can barely move their entire life. While the public is against this form of animal cruelty, the egg industry as a whole has yet to get with the times and move away from using inhumane battery cages.

    I hope this National Egg Month brings the egg industry one step closer to eliminating battery cages in this country forever.
  5. Sara
    Well said! how much longer can the egg industry ignore the writing on the wall? it's like they're on auto-pilot and aren't shifting gears to address consumer concerns. battery cages are an antiquated and archaic system that should be abolished.
  6. Thanks for once again standing up and speaking out for animals, Paul!
  7. Great post Paul, Hopefully more business's will give up eggs from battery cage hens. The best thing that concerned citizens can do, is simply give up eggs. They are not good for you. so why eat then.

  8. Fred

    There's no difference in animal stress with caged or cage-free eggs. And cage-free hens DIE more.

    Animal welfare?

More from

Food Access


‘It’s Impossible Not to Feel Like I’m Part of the Flock’

In an excerpt from her new book, ‘Under the Henfluence,’ Tove Danovich discusses her ongoing fascination with chickens and the challenge of reconciling the backyard trend with today’s industrial practices.


Paraquat, the Deadliest Chemical in US Agriculture, Goes on Trial

A tractor spraying paraquat on the Cox ranch. (Photo courtesy of Shirley Cox)

The IPCC’s Latest Climate Report Is a Final Alarm for Food Systems, Too

PAJARO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: In an aerial view, floodwaters fill the streets on March 14, 2023 in Pajaro, California. Northern California has been hit by another atmospheric river that has brought heavy rains and flooding throughout the region. The town has been inundated with floodwaters since Saturday after a levee was breached along the Pajaro River. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Supreme Court Case Could Reshape Indigenous Water Rights in the Southwest

A close-up view of center-pivot irrigation watering corn on NAPI farmland. (Photo courtesy of NAPI)

All Eyes on California as Fast-Food Worker Rights Land on the 2024 Ballot

Fast-food workers and activists protest McDonald's labor practices outside a McDonald's restaurant on March 18, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)