Enriched layer cages don’t fare well in Harper’s article
I was disappointed, but not surprised, that the author of the article titled Cage Wars, in the November issue of Harper’s Magazine, was not impressed with the enriched colony housing. The article chronicles a visit to Vande Bunte Eggs’ farm, which I have visited myself, to see the enriched colony housing, with birds housed at 93 square inches per hen, on this Michigan farm.
Here is one sample of her impression of the enriched house: “Flakes of feed, dander, feathers, and excrement waft through the barn and settle over the cages. The dust gathers and accumulates, turning into a dense coating of grime that attracts flies and makes it hard to breathe.”
The author was even less kind in her description of the deep-pit house with conventional cages with hens housed at 67 square inches per bird. She said, “I can feel every breath, and I swat at flies as I walk.
The pit seems even worse than it was in the video. The grime is thick, and it hangs from the feeders and cages and belts like icicles.”
The article concludes with a description of a sanctuary group which “adopts” spent layers, some of which have been flown cross country to be sent to new “homes.”
I don’t consider this article to be a major setback for enriched housing, but I do think it points out the importance of egg producers taking steps to present enriched colonies to the public. Harper’s is a very left-leaning publication, but there are other media outlets. There is momentum for change in the U.S. when it comes to welfare and egg production. If the industry wants to help steer the change, it has to take a position and start working.
I applaud producers who are willing to let their facilities be seen by the public and by the media. The next step is to learn from the feedback we get and fix problems. For instance, if dust is really a problem in enriched houses, how do we prevent/remove it?