You’ve likely noticed that unusually high egg prices have been making headlines lately. The main reason for these soaring costs is the current avian flu outbreak, which, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, is the worst on record, contributing to the deaths of 50.54 million birds so far.
In efforts to stop the spread of avian flu where the illness is suspected, farmers are instructed to kill flocks all at once, something the industry refers to as “depopulation.” These mass on-farm killings are extremely cruel, despite being legal.
Killing methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association include ventilation shutdown, which involves killing all the birds in a barn by turning off the ventilation system and often increasing the heat. The terrified animals panic, flap their wings, and jump around in a desperate attempt to escape. They eventually collapse and succumb to heatstroke. This horrible death often takes up to two hours.
Use of water-based foam is also an AVMA-approved killing method. The barn is filled with thick foam that covers the birds and causes them to suffocate over several agonizing minutes.
But that’s not all. Here are other reasons why choosing plant-based eggs is more important than ever:
Chick “culling” is a form of mass-killing that occurs in virtually all modern egg production and is not related to avian flu. Because male chicks don’t lay eggs and aren’t among the fast-growing breeds used for meat, they’re deemed worthless by the egg industry and are killed shortly after hatching.
One of the most common methods is maceration, which entails grinding the chicks up in a machine while they’re alive and fully conscious. Other AVMA-approved methods include gassing and “cervical dislocation” (breaking their necks).
Most hens in the egg industry are forced to live in filthy, windowless barns, often with thousands of other birds. Even birds raised for “cage-free” eggs typically suffer in these crowded barns and never see the outdoors. Worse, hens confined to cages can barely take a step and can’t even spread their wings.
Hens crammed together in cages at egg farms can’t do much of anything that is natural to them. Instead, the extreme stress of overcrowding often leads to unnatural behaviors, such as pecking one another. Rather than give the birds more space, to reduce injury farmers cut off the ends of chicks’ beaks with a hot blade. Called “debeaking,” this standard industry practice is typically done without any pain relief.
The overcrowded, unnatural conditions at factory egg farms make these farms the perfect breeding grounds for illnesses like avian flu and could spark future pandemics. Furthermore, eating eggs, which are high in cholesterol, can be bad for human health. One study found a significant link between eating three to four more eggs per week and higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death by any other cause.
What You Can Do
There’s no better time to leave eggs off your plate. Why not give it a try now—you might even save some money! In fact, reports show that at the end of 2022, the cost of plant-based eggs was even lower than that of chickens’ eggs. Eating plant-based is easier than ever with all the great vegan egg products and cooking tips available.
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