No such thing as a good egg

Posted on the 21st October 2021

New research suggests that around 85% of keel bone* fractures in laying hens are caused by several factors, including whether they lay large or very large eggs, which is of course triggered by consumer demand.

(*The keel bone is an extension to the hens breast-bone (or sternum) and acts as a point of attachment for a hen’s wing flight muscles.)

The study examined 4,800 hens in 40 different flocks and found fractures in almost 4,100 of them. The findings spanned hens kept across all systems. Although the research was undertaken in Denmark, it concluded that the issue was a global problem.

According to assistant professor Ida Thøfner from the University of Copenhagen, who conducted the research “These animals suffer, both when the fracture occurs and afterwards, so we are dealing with a huge animal welfare problem here.”

Hens with keel bone injuries may suffer long-term chronic pain, due to the severity of their injury. Some poor birds were found to have more than four fractures. These gentle animals may mask their own suffering in order to avoid being pushed out by the flock.

The traditional explanation for the cause of fractures in hens is high calcium demands from accelerated modern egg production. Their bodies can barely keep pace, as they may produce nearly an egg every day, compared to their nearest ancestor, the red jungle fowl, who lay about 12-20 eggs per year. Other factors which can contribute to these painful fractures may include inactivity leading to poor bone health, deformity of the keel bone, the age at first lay (hens may start laying before the keel bone is fully mature) and the effect of genetics.

The egg industry are encouraging consumers to purchase eggs of different sizes, in the interests of ‘hen welfare.’ However, Animal Aid would encourage people to avoid eating eggs altogether in order to prevent the suffering that is endemic in the egg industry – from male chicks killed at just a day old, to ‘spent hens’ being trucked off to die terrifying deaths in the slaughterhouse at just a fraction of their natural lifespan.


Check out this cookalong recipe for scrambled tofu from Aaron Calder Vegan

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