Anthony Rust, executive vice president of Rose Acre Farms, recently explained his reasons for caging hens in an article by AgriNews because according to him, caged hens are healthier than cage-free hens.

The 15 Rose Acre Farms locations today are a mix of cage-free and caged layer hens.

Rust said the caged hens lay more consistently because they have less stress and fewer conditional changes such as temperature and diseases. In contrast, the cage-free birds are sick more often, have more fluctuations in production and have a much higher mortality rate about double or triple that of the caged birds because of ingesting more feces, pecking and being smothered to death from crowding together.

“We used to have all floor birds 50 years ago, but they got sick so easy, we put them in cages. But when some of (the customers) requested cage-free eggs, we thought maybe there were some updates or changes that would make floor birds easier and healthier,” Rust said. “There weren’t [healthier].

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"If you don’t want medicine in their feed, you don’t want floor birds because we are treating them a lot more often,” he said. “There is no justification for going cage-free if you’re for animal welfare.”

Rust said consumers simply are not educated and can be easily swayed into paying more for cage-free eggs or voting for the banning of chicken cages when they are shown photos of floor chickens versus caged birds.

“We have to give people the facts so they can make the right choices,” he said. “If (free range) is so great for the chickens, why do they die at a much quicker rate? Happy chickens don’t die.”