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The hidden costs of cage-free eggs

Sourcing 100% cage-free eggs has become a popular trend among food manufacturers that use eggs in their products. But aviaries, the most common industrial cage-free alternative for housing egg-laying hens, bear their own risks and problems for the hens, employees and the environment, according to a new report from the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply.

In aviary systems, hen mortality is higher than traditional battery cages because it is easier for the hens to spread germs. Hens in this environment also tend to become more aggressive, including pecking at one another or even becoming cannibalistic.

Aviaries can also increase health risks for employees who care for the hens and collect the eggs. This included being exposed to higher ammonia concentrations, dust levels and particulate matter emissions in the air, which can cause respiratory issues for workers.