I’m not sure what most people imagine when they think of chickens being raised to lay eggs. Maybe, like me a long time ago, they don’t really think about it at all. The unfortunate truth is that most eggs come from factory farmed chickens, and factory farming involves a lot of suffering.
“But why don’t vegans eat eggs? You don’t have to hurt the animals to get those.”
I’ve heard this about both milk and eggs several times a year for the past 18 years. Today I’ll just focus on the eggs.
Did You Know
Newly-hatched chicks are sent down a conveyor belt to be manually inspected by chicken sexers – great job title, huh? The job of the chicken sexer is to determine the sex of the chicks within a fraction of a second. The chicks are then sorted. Obviously female chicks are needed to one day produce eggs. On the other hand since these chickens are bred for egg laying, male chicks are useless and are disposed of. Within moments of being hatched, the male chicks may be thrown into a macerated to be ground up alive. In some facilities they gather the chicks and gas them, while others may shock them, break their necks, or suffocate them using foam or plastic bags.
This sleek video shows how processing chicks can be neatly streamlined. The brown sludge you see shooting out of the machine around the 1 minute mark is the shredded bodies of unwanted male chicks which are culled (in this case macerated) moments after being hatched.
If the chick is lucky enough to be a female she will be debeaked (seen above), loaded with antibiotics, and crammed into a battery cage. The chickens must be debeaked because living in an overcrowded, confined space makes them anxious and prone to pecking each other (and cannibalism!). The cages are often stacked high, with feces from the chickens above falling onto the chickens below.
A hen’s egg production will usually slow after about 2 years. When egg production stops, or becomes so slow that it is no longer economical to keep the hen, she will be slaughtered. This, and chick culling, are not only issues on factory farms. Small farms – even backyard farms – are not likely to keep hens that don’t produce.
But Don’t We Need Eggs?
Nope. Did you know in baked goods you can replace eggs with mashed bananas, ground flax, chia seeds, or baking soda and vinegar? You can also make vegan omelettes with chickpea flour, or the very popular VeganEgg from Follow Your Heart (the Amazon price flucuates. If it’s about $7, try to find it locally). Tofu scramble is a breakfast classic.
What are your favorite egg substitutes? If you have a question about substituting eggs in a certain recipe, post in the comments below!