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article imageOp-Ed: If You Eat Large Eggs is That Contributing to Animal Cruelty?

By Bob Ewing     Mar 11, 2009 in Food
The chairman of the British Free Range Producers’ Association claims eating larger eggs is unkind to hens, and urges consumers to eat medium ones instead.
The flavour and the quality of an egg can be affected by what the chicken is fed but can a chicken be forced to grow a large or extra large egg and if they can is that cruel?
Tom Vessey is the chairman of the British Free Range Producers’ Association. Vessey owns 16,000 hens on his land at Dingestow, Monmouth.
He said, “It can be painful to the hen to lay a larger egg. There is also the stress, which is a big problem as it takes more out of hens to lay large eggs. It would be kinder to eat smaller eggs. Whenever I go to the Continent people eat medium-sized eggs yet here the housewife seems to be wedded to large eggs.”
He added that a breakfast of two medium eggs was more appetising than of one large one, “I prefer medium eggs,” he said.
“They taste better, are less watery and don’t run off the plate.”
On this point of taste and being more I must disagree; over the years I have cooked many an egg and often large or extra large ones. The taste has not appeared to be affected by the size nor have I noticed any difference in quality when scrambling, frying, boiling, poaching and so on.
Vessey claims the reason for farmers producing bigger eggs is because of the higher payout.
The egg industry is unhappy with Vessey's claims, however, animal welfare campaigners say his point is an important one.
Phil Brooke, of Compassion in World Farming, said, “Selectively breeding hens for high productivity, whether larger eggs or larger numbers of eggs, can cause a range of problems such as osteoporosis, bone breakage and prolapse. We need to breed and feed hens so that they can produce eggs without risk to their health or welfare.”
Christine Nicol, Professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Bristol, said, “There is no strong published evidence of pain in egg-laying hens but it’s not unreasonable to think there may be a mismatch in the
size of birds and the eggs they produce. We do often spot bloodstains on large eggs. As a personal decision I would never buy jumbo eggs.”
I have only extremely rarely seen a blood spot on any egg, medium, large or extra large.
Vessey hopes the drop in the cost of very large eggs will put farmers off from producing them. He also thinks if farmers were to get more money for medium eggs, they would be more likely to produce more of them.
Vessey thinks if the protein part of the chicken feed was altered, it would be feasible to slow down the process of egg production in order for hens to lay smaller eggs. In addition, farmers could
be in for much higher profits, as medium eggs have less chance of breakages.
The reason the majority of shoppers buy bigger eggs, may be because they assumed they offered better value for money. “But it is possible consumers could be switched off from buying large overnight,” Head of the British Egg Industry Council, Mark Williams said.
Alan Pearson, spokesman for the British Poultry Veterinary Association, said, “Frankly I think there are bigger welfare issues that people have in their minds, such as hens in cages. The size of an egg rarely causes problems for the bird.”
Lindsey Bareham, The Times cook, said, “I have no doubt that the diet of the chicken is what affects the flavour of its eggs, not the size. If eggs from organic, free-range chickens aren’t available, I’d rather go without.”
I'd say the evidence is inconclusive but if you are concerned that buying large eggs is hard on the hens that lay them switch to medium, what have you got to lose?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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