This Friday, March 19, is National Poultry Day. To celebrate, American Humane is providing clarity to home chefs confused by the proliferation of packaging claims in recent years.
Ethically minded consumers should seek out cartons carrying the American Humane CertifiedTM seal, which come from farms that have been audited against some 200 science-based standards for excellent welfare outcomes. American Humane audits and certified, broadly, three distinct systems in which farmers raise laying hens: cage-free, free-range and pasture raised.
All eggs certified by American Humane come from barns where the hens are guaranteed, at a minimum, cage-free status. These birds live in barns where they can move freely and have littered floors that encourage natural behaviors like scratching and dust bathing. Many farmers we work with use cage-free housing systems that provide access to the outdoors.
American Humane CertifiedTM free-range eggs come from hens that have daytime access to an outdoor area of at least 21.8 square feet per hen. At night, they sleep in a barn that meets the cage-free housing requirements.
But be wary, not all labels guarantee the same amount of space to so-called “free-range” laying hens. Some free-range hens may only have 2 square feet of outdoor space. Now, birds can still be humanely raised in that space, but it may not be fair to call 2 square feet “free-range.” Those hens should be considered cage-free.
Pasture raised hens are given a substantial amount of space – 108.9 square feet per hen of outdoor area during the daytime. With added space comes added precautions – ensuring that hens have access, wherever they are, to water, shade and other necessities.
Laying hens raised by American Humane CertifiedTM farmers live in conditions defined in collaboration with an independent Scientific Advisory Committee made up of the world’s leading veterinarians, animal scientists and practitioners. These standards help ensure that each, and every, hen has access to adequate space, clean air and water, proper heating, lighting and shade, and that the animals have the ability to engage in natural behaviors.
To celebrate National Poultry Day, American Humane encourages shoppers everywhere to seek out eggs that come from farms that do right by the animals in their care.