1 January 2012 marked an important day for egg-laying hens across Europe. After years of waiting, an EU ban on conventional barren battery cages came into force.
So does this mean that every egg we will now buy is cage-free?
Absolutely not. While the ban outlaws ‘conventional’ battery cages, it still allows so-called ‘enriched’ battery cages. These cages give hens a nesting, scratching and perching area and a little bit more usable space, but still amounting to no more than an A4 sheet of paper per bird. This is why it’s important to choose cage-free eggs.
So always check the packaging to be sure what you’re buying contains cage-free eggs and if you are not sure – ask.
The cost of choosing eggs from higher welfare systems compared to battery cages can be a matter of a few pennies – a small price to pay for a major welfare improvement! So please choose eggs labelled Freedom Food. Freedom Food labelled products are produced by animals on farms inspected to RSPCA welfare standards. If you can’t find Freedom Food labelled eggs then look for free-range, barn or organic.
The law in Europe requires all eggs and their boxes to be labelled either free-range, barn, organic or cage. However, these terms (particularly ‘eggs from caged hens’) can sometimes be in small print on the back of the box. So don’t get caught out by eggs boldly labelled ‘Farm Fresh’ or ‘Healthy Living’ – these have probably been laid by caged hens unless it specifically says otherwise!
Eggs are also used as ingredients in many different types of food, including ice cream, mayonnaise, cakes, quiches and sandwiches, which don’t legally have to be labelled with how the hens that laid them were kept. However, foods made with cage-free eggs will often be clearly advertised with the information on the packaging or in the ingredients list. If you are not sure then ask the retailer or manufacturer.
The RSPCA has produced a helpful guide to choosing cage-free eggs