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Nov 13, 2013 08:34 AM EST

Caged Hens Are Healthier Than Free-Range Chickens, Study

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Caged hens lead happier and healthier lives when compared to their farm raised counterparts, according to a University of Bristol study.

Researchers said that stress and mortality levels are lower in hens raised in 'enriched cages.' Plus, they are less likely to suffer from bone fractures or pecking than free-range chickens.

Professor Christine Nicol, who led the research, said that although farms offer better quality of life to hens, many of them had poor welfare standards.

 'Caged hens are more comfortable than people think and have higher welfare as standard than free-range hens. It would be nice to think the current free-range system gave the birds the best welfare, but the problem is that the management of free-range systems in the UK is so variable. Although you get some brilliant farms, you get some that are really not good,' Nicol told Daily Mail UK.

 'The challenge for the industry is realising the potential of the free-range system... so that they actually do what consumers think they do, which is provide all hens with good welfare.'

However, a spokesman for Compassion in World Farming feels that consumers should still opt for free-range eggs.  

"Only in free-range (or organic) farms can hens fully perform all their important natural behaviours, like stretching and flapping their wings, perching up high, foraging, scratching, dust-bathing and laying their eggs in a comfortable nest," Daily Mail UK reports.

Eggs in the U.S.

Around 95 percent of all eggs in the United States come from caged hens, Huffington Post reports. According to Human Society of the United States (HSUS), more than 90 percent of the country's 280 million egg-laying hens are confined to battery cages.

According to the California Proposition 2 (2008), egg producers are required to ban the use of battery cages. A similar law has been passed in Michigan. In Ohio, a temporary prohibition of the use of battery cages has been introduced.

In 2011, the HSUS, in association with the United Egg Producers (the egg industry's trade association), jointly drafted a federal bill. If passed into law, it would require all the egg producers in the country to replace battery cages with 'enriched cages.'

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