Egg cartons not accurate in reporting animal welfare claims

If you think that you're using humanely produced eggs for your omelets or deviled eggs, think again. Egg companies recognize that most Americans care about the welfare of farmed animals and many market their eggs with labels claiming the hens were treated well. But a Rutgers–Camden law professor warns that many of the animal welfare claims on egg cartons aren't all that they're cracked up to be.

Sheila Rodriguez, a clinical associate professor at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden, asserts that food consumers have a right to know how farm are raised and, for that reason, egg producers' claims about animal welfare should be regulated by the federal government.

In a forthcoming edition of the Temple Journal of Science, Technology & Environmental Law, the Rutgers–Camden professor argues that egg consumers have a right to know that "[m]ost hens are packed eight or nine hens to a cage... [The cages are] so small that [hens] are unable to stretch a wing. The overcrowding causes them to fight, so their beaks are cut off to prevent them from injuring other birds. The fewer than 5% of in the U.S. that are not produced under these conditions are from hens that were not even allowed outside," says Rodriguez.

In her article, "The Morally Informed Consumer: Examining Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Labels," Rodriguez contends that consumers need to understand that "'cage-free' hens are a subset of factory-farmed production. Even small farms that do not raise under industrial production standards purchase their birds from factory-farm hatcheries."

Animal welfare claims on egg should be regulated to ensure accuracy. The Rutgers–Camden professor notes that "many of the production method claims made by egg producers cannot be accurately verified. Industry standards are factory farmed standards. Federally-verified claims made under the National Organic Program, though comprehensive, are problematic because of lax enforcement."

Consumers also may be misled by such marketing claims as "natural," "no antibiotics used," and "no hormones administered," which, Rodriguez explains, have no relevance to . And while the terms "free-range" and "free-roaming" frequently appear on egg cartons, these are claims that apply to poultry, or birds raised for their meat, not to birds raised for their eggs.

Until clear and enforceable guidelines are established, Rodriguez argues, conscientious consumers should avoid purchasing most eggs.

In addition to her research on farmed animals, Rodriguez serves on the University of Pennsylvania's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, which oversees all research, education, and training involving animals to ensure compliance with federal law. The University of Pennsylvania appointed Rodriguez as a non-scientist to represent the outside community's interest in the humane treatment of animals.

Prior to joining the faculty at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden, Rodriguez served as Counsel for the Animal Protection Institute, now Born Free USA, a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization headquartered in Sacramento.

A Haddonfield, New Jersey resident, Rodriguez teaches courses in legal writing and animal law at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden.

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May 31, 2011
It is wrong to add egg carton labels to some list of monitored items, especially since the US is known for class-action suits and punitive damages that work as deterrents against flawed products and services.

Instead, laws should be written so that suing a producer for fallacious claims and even downright lies should be easy. This is a lot cheaper for the government than policing hundreds of thousands of labels and the bureaucracy needed.

It is likely that animal and consumer activists would then do the enforcing with zeal and efficient results.

May 31, 2011
Egg cartons not accurate in reporting animal welfare claims

Those darn egg cartons - they just can't be trusted. Add this to a the long list of things egg cartons do not accurately report. They're absolutely abysmal reporting on reverse equity swap losses, the environmental impacts of the SarbanesOxley Act of 2002, or regional ice cream flavor inventories, but far and away the area where they are most deceptive involve marketing message contents regulated by the federal government.

So once again, reliably and right on schedule, a professor advises more poison for the cure.

We need hazard warnings for professors, not eggs.

By the way, there is no such thing as a "a right to know how farm animals are raised". If there was sufficient market demand for such market-claim supporting information, egg companies would readily provide it in order to ensure their market share. Of course, some people don't believe it is possible to produce eggs humanely. There's no pleasing them.

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