Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Monday, September 7, 2009

Trader Joe's Eggs NOT Humane

I decided to look online for some information regarding the "Organic Free Range Eggs" that Trader Joe's, my favorite store, sells.

Here is what their web site says.

6. A Note About Eggs

At Trader Joe's we listen to what our customers tell us about the choices we give them. Thanks to their valued feedback, in 2005 we made an important change in our egg selection. As of this time, all Trader Joe's brand eggs come only from cage-free hens. Now customers looking for cage-free eggs need to look no further than the Trader Joe's label. Any conventional eggs sold in our stores are in a brand name carton, not under the Trader Joe's label.

But are they really free-range eggs? I looked online and all I could find was this article on The Vegetarian Site. Here's what they say about Trader Joe's eggs (definitely does not sound humane to me.)
Trader Joe's, a national specialty grocer, offers a large range of vegan and soy products. They also offer "Cage Free" eggs. None of the employees at my local store could offer any information concerning the welfare of the hens. However, I did get a response from corporate headquarters: "The hens live in barns with some access to the outdoors. They are debeaked because that is necessary to keep them from injuring each other." If, in fact, Trader Joe's deems debeaking as necessary, then this immediately reveals the high density of birds. Under a true free range setting, hens can establish a "pecking order" and none is in danger so long as she can move easily to a different area. Under a high-stress, high-density environment, a natural pecking order cannot be established and the sharp beaks of hens can result in injury (and death) to large numbers of birds.

7 comments:

Rose said...

This is not surprising...I doubt if ANY so called "free-range" eggs are humane... here are the USDA guidelines for "free range" eggs:

The USDA requires that “free-range” animals have access to outdoor areas, but there is no provision for how long they must spend or how much room they must have outside. The Associated Press reported that the USDA’s regulations don’t “require the birds to actually spend time outdoors, only to have access.”(3) Even if a farmer opened the door to a coop with thousands of birds inside and then closed it before any chickens went outside, he would still be able to use the free-range label.(4)

Now, at the end of the day...we all know that when the time comes and these so called "free-range" hens don't produce enough to earn their keep, they'll be sent off to slaughter. What a happy ending for an animal that a farmer has earned livelihood from...this is treason in no uncertain terms...STORE-BOUGHT EGGS ARE NOT HUMANE.... EVER.

Bea Elliott said...

Rose beat me to it! :) I couldn't have said it better. "Free-range" eggs as a "product" is just a fanciful myth!

Anonymous said...

If, in fact, Trader Joe's deems debeaking as necessary, then this immediately reveals the high density of birds. Under a true free range setting, hens can establish a "pecking order" and none is in danger so long as she can move easily to a different area. Under a high-stress, high-density environment, a natural pecking order cannot be established and the sharp beaks of hens can result in injury (and death) to large numbers of birds.

From what I've read, that statement is simply not accurate.

Humane Farm Animal Care, one of the "humane" farming certification organizations, publishes their standards and policies for certification. For egg farming, there is an appendix entitled, "Managing cannibalism in laying hen flocks". According to this, beak-trimming (NOT de-beaking) is done to prevent cannibalism, which is a very common problem. The document doesn't advocate beak-trimming, though it does state that, if it is done, it should be done within the first 10-days of life.

It goes on to say that the causes for cannibalism are not known, but that certain factors seem to increase the probability of it. Some steps for managing the problem are outlined.

I too am concerned about the treatment of animals and am looking for ways to contribute as little as possible to their mistreatment. Simply being vegetarian doesn't seem like enough. So, for that reason, I've been trying to find out more about certification, what it does (and doesn't) mean. I'm also interested in finding out what some of the difficulties are that may be preventing producers from applying more humane practices. The biggest problem seems to be the issue of cannibalism among the birds.

It doesn't appear that simply providing enough space for the birds to establish a "pecking order" prevents the problem. In fact, there seem to be other factors that more greatly contribute to it.

For those that are interested, here is a link to the HFAC standards http://www.certifiedhumane.org/pdfs/Std09.Layers.1AD.pdf (PDF).

Bea Elliott said...

Hi Misfist... Maybe I can help? I have given home to a small flock of rescued "factory hens"... During the course of 2 years I've also rescued some chicks that needed some TLC - I've found that "the pecking order" is most prominent when the birds are bored... When they are out in true "free range" conditions the "dominant" order just disappears. Apparently, there's just too much to do outside the confines of their "coop"...

Yes, there are still occasional squabbles - But so minor they don't amount to much more than short lived hurt feelings. Then the next second they move on to whatever they were doing before the rift... This applies to the hens with intact beaks as well.

But you did mention you are "looking for ways to contribute as little as possible to their mistreatment" - And that's a wonderful thing to do!

When I was a vegetarian and began my investigation, I found it hard to proceed with "eggs" after realizing that each hen, no matter how well cared for, had a "worthless" brother who was killed shortly after peeping out of his shell... There's just no way the industry can get around that unpleasant bit of truth. :(

Short of "hard-boiled" eggs or "meringue" - There's hardly a food that can't be just as tasty and nutritious with substitutes...

I sure do admire your earnest endeavor to make informed and compassionate decisions. But I looked for information about the male chicks on the pdf you cited and no surprise... Not a word about it. Nor do they mention that these hens are usually "spent" and sent to a brutal slaughter at only a fraction of their life span. :(

I think you're doing the right thing questioning as you are! I wish you the best in finding the right answers. :)

Anonymous said...

Is there a way to find more info?

I asked an employee in West Hollywood and he said "cage-free and free-range are all the same," and it is just a marketing gimmick.

I used to own hens up to a few weeks ago, when the last one died. The first was killed by a predator while the last two got sick. They only lived to about 2.5 years, and it is considered common for hens, even though historically they can live to 10 years. The hens at farms, even free-range, are meant to pump out as many eggs as possible before their health goes downhill. This is the true story of production hens.

I love eggs but now only eat once month, except for baked items that likely contain some eggs. I really don't feel comfortable after seeing my hens get sick and spending a fortune on vets to no avail.

Bottom line is, is there more info about Trader Joe's cage-free and the free-range?

Anonymous said...

Is there a way to find more info?

I asked an employee in West Hollywood and he said "cage-free and free-range are all the same," and it is just a marketing gimmick.

I used to own hens up to a few weeks ago, when the last one died. The first was killed by a predator while the last two got sick. They only lived to about 2.5 years, and it is considered common for hens, even though historically they can live to 10 years. The hens at farms, even free-range, are meant to pump out as many eggs as possible before their health goes downhill. This is the true story of production hens.

I love eggs but now only eat once month, except for baked items that likely contain some eggs. I really don't feel comfortable after seeing my hens get sick and spending a fortune on vets to no avail.

Bottom line is, is there more info about Trader Joe's cage-free and the free-range?

PopnFresh said...

Talk about a thread revival! But I was recently looking for humane eggs, and my favorite store is also Trader Joe's so I came across these links in my search.

I just wanted to point out that the article on The Vegetarian Site was published prior to TJ's decision to switch over to cage-free eggs.

Now, that doesn't necessarily change anything; the hens are likely still debeaked, likely still high density in a barn ("not a cage"), but it's probably worth a call to TJ's corporate office to confirm since their decision to change in 2005 was after the article published in 2004.