From an animal welfare point of view, cage free eggs are far from perfect, but they are better. And from a public health perspective, cage-free eggs are a necessary and urgently needed improvement.
What can you do?
1) Take the HSUS "cage-free pledge."
2) If you are going to eat eggs, seek out organic and free-range eggs.
3) Never eat raw eggs.
4) Don't spend extra for brown eggs. They aren't any more nutritious than white eggs, they are just from a different breed of hens.
5) Don't be fooled by eggs that claim they are produced without "added hormones. That sounds nice, but is meaningless. No hormones are currently approved for use in U.S. egg production.
6) Beware that the egg industry has been eager to co-opt the language of humane farming. As awareness of the horrors of egg factory farms
has been growing in recent years, the industry trade group United Egg
Producers responded, not by improving conditions, but by labeling
cartons of eggs "Animal Care Certified." In actuality, this
"certification" was only the industry's misleading attempt to whitewash
its tarnished image. After legal action forced them to remove the
meaningless label, the industry came up with yet another bogus attempt
to hoodwink the public. Egg cartons that say "Produced in Compliance
With United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines," are designed to
help you feel safe and confident as you purchase eggs that come from
filthy disease mills, including the very facilities whose
salmonella-infected eggs are the target of the current recall.
7) Users of craigslist may have seen the warning: "Deal locally with folks you can meet in person. Follow this one simple rule and you will
avoid 99 percent of...scams." This principle applies to eggs, too. If
you are going to eat eggs, try bypassing the supermarket entirely, and
get them from local farmer's markets. To find one near you, see Localharvest.org.
At the moment, cage-free, free-range and organic eggs are indeed more expensive. Are they worth the added cost? That's up to you to decide.
But the more you learn, the more able you are to make informed
choices. When you include the risk of salmonella poisoning, when you
take into account the differences in flavor and nutrition, and when you
factor in the degree of animal cruelty involved, getting away from eggs
that come from concentration-camp chickens starts to seem less like a
luxury. The more you know, the more it seems like an ethical and health
John Robbins is the author of The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less. His other bestsellers include The Food Revolution and Diet For A New America. He is the recipient of the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer
Humanitarian Award, the Peace Abbey's Courage of Conscience Award, and
Green America's Lifetime Achievement Award. For more info about his
work, see johnrobbins.info