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Rotten Eggs? Carton Labels Can be Deceiving

The Animal Welfare Approved label sets the highest standard for treatment of egg-laying hens. (Pixabay)
The Animal Welfare Approved label sets the highest standard for treatment of egg-laying hens. (Pixabay)
March 25, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – Whether it's for a hunt or a brunch, animal welfare groups are advising Michigan residents purchasing eggs this Easter week not to be fooled by deceptive packaging claims.

Carter Dillard, director of litigation for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, says with increasing consumer interest in humane food production, there has been a rise in labels like "cage-free" or "free-range."

He warns that in those situations, the birds can still be confined, but in a larger warehouse or shed.

"You oftentimes won't be able to tell the difference," Dillard says, "because even cage producers will include packaging imagery, and sometimes language, that suggests that the birds are outside of cages – when in fact, they're in cages."

"Certified Humane" and "American Humane Certified" are designations that do not require hens to have outdoor access; nor are there regulatory standards for the label terms "Farm Fresh" or "Naturally Raised."

Dillard says the label to look for is "Animal Welfare Approved," as it sets the highest standard for treatment of egg-laying hens.

He believes other states should follow Michigan, which passed a 10-year phase-out of the use of battery cages on egg farms. Chickens raised in battery cages are confined to small, wire enclosures in which they can barely move.

"Hens are intelligent, social creatures, but there are facilities where there are three or four million of them crammed into a cage system with immense suffering," says Dillard. "I think if people care about animals, they ought to know how their eggs are produced."

A current lawsuit filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund is in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It urges federal agencies to regulate the use of animal welfare claims on egg cartons.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI