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(In response to Julia Shumway’s Jan. 10 article, “Campus group jumpstarts ASU’s transition to cage-free eggs.”)



Although cage-free eggs seem great and the general perception is that they are better, it is mostly clever marketing, where people who have minimal knowledge about the industry see “cage-free” (among other terms like “free-range”) and think, “Oh, that must be so much better and humane, because the hens actually have room to move and express natural behaviors.” Another misleading term is “free-range” eggs.

I did a semester-long group project on eggs for my Sustainable Food and farms class. Other groups addressed other food commodities such as dairy, fruits and vegetables, coffee, etc. After all of our academic research, we found that not only were egg labels misleading, but that if humaneness of animals is based on mortality rates, bird health, living conditions, ability to express natural behaviors, etc., that cage-free is no better than caged eggs, and in the case of mortality rates, sickness and disease, cage-free were actually worse in most cases.

In the end, we recommended to ASU food and purchasing & ARAMARK to purchase battery cage eggs from local producers ... just because of the level of transparency and honesty of the company, the quality of the facility and the fact that they recycled their bird droppings, turning it into compost that is then used for local farms, parks, etc.

Ultimately, I would say that the industry as a whole engages in terrible practices, where the animals are generally treated as mere commodities. The only system I could get behind is pasture-raised or “backyard” hens, but as we determined in our report, it is not feasible at this time to meet ASU’s food needs.

Paul Falsone

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The labels on eggs, such as “cage-free,” usually don’t mean what they sound like. Hens responsible for “cage-free” eggs may not be caged, but thousands of them may be crammed together in a single room, which usually does not fare well for the hens.

I don’t think ASU should go for a particular label, but that they should be conscious of where their eggs come from.

The best is probably to source eggs from local farms, but that may not be possible for ASU. Next best option is to source from lager, local egg producers, such as Hickman’s Eggs.

Erica Blaire Pederson

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