World Egg Day falls every second Friday in October. This day was established in Vienna in 1966, promoted by the International Egg Commission. It is no coincidence that an organization dedicated to the global egg industry wanted to establish a day of “celebration” for a product that generates millions in profits. Of course, for the chickens exploited by this industry there is nothing to celebrate; however, it is a good day to become aware of your situation and start acting.
Around 6 billion hens are farmed globally for the production of almost 1 trillion eggs for human consumption each year. Most of them live on factory farms where their most basic needs are violated. The only thing that matters to the egg industry is higher profits, and the overall welfare of the animals, of course, doesn’t figure in their calculations.
Male chicks are deemed useless so they are killed the day they are born, either by suffocation, gassing or being thrown alive into a high-speed grinder. Females are ‘debeaked’, usually with a hot blade and no pain relief. This leads to persistent acute pain and often prevents chicks from being able to eat or drink properly.
Most laying hens are kept in battery cages. The space given to each bird is less than the size of an A4 piece of paper and the wire floors hurt their feet. Overcrowded, they’re unable to spread their wings and are forced to urinate and defecate on one another. They are also forced to live with dead or dying cagemates that are often left to rot.
Hens in the wild lay 10-15 eggs a year. In the egg industry they produce over 300 eggs a year, due to selective breeding and diverse methods to increase productivity. One of these methods is the ‘forced molting‘ which consists of changes in lighting and restriction of water and food in certain seasons, generating a lot of stress in the hens. Exhausted and often with broken bones due to calcium loss, hens are sent to slaughter after 2-3 years. The natural lifespan of a chicken is actually 8-10 years.
But the egg does not only harm chicks and hens. The egg industry presents its product as healthy food, but many studies show otherwise. Although the egg is high in protein, it is also high in fats that are bad for the body, particularly cholesterol. Therefore, its consumption has been associated with diseases such as diabetes, colorectal and prostate cancer, and heart problems.
And there are other ways in which the egg industry threatens the environment and public health. Their facilities use and pollute a lot of water. The grains fed to the chickens -generally soybeans, corn and sorghum- are usually produced with transgenic seeds in extensive monocultures that, in addition to polluting the air with agrochemicals, generate a lot of deforestation. On the other hand, the unfortunate conditions in which the chickens are found and the lack of cleanliness of the facilities are the perfect focus for the transmission of viruses and bacteria, which, according to many scientists, could be the cause of the next pandemic.
Another characteristic of eggs renowned by the industry is their versatility to give textures to certain preparations. However, vegan gastronomy already has alternatives to eggs for all kinds of recipes. Flax and chia can be used to create a sticky consistency similar to egg white. Chickpeas are used to prepare tortillas or waffles and also to make binder with the remaining liquid from their cooking, known as aquafaba. In sweet preparations, banana or apple puree can be used to give the dough a fluffiness. Tofu is also a good replacement for eggs in various preparations, it can even resemble scrambled eggs with the right seasonings. There are also some industrial alternatives to eggs, ready to use in any recipe.
There are many options to eat a balanced diet without the need to threaten the autonomy and welfare of animals. Chickens are sentient animals with impressive personalities. They deserve more than being brought into the world to be exploited and killed.