The importance of Halal goes beyond Islamic preparation of food. When followed properly, Halal protocols additionally assure the health and well-being of animals. We can take these operating standards and apply them to areas one wouldn’t necessarily expect to hear the word “Halal.”
For example, a number of grocery store chains including Costco, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Kroger have committed to using cage-free eggs. Outspoken consumers and industry experts such as Dr. Temple Grandin make an impact and lead the way for change.
The argument of raising hens in a free-range environment is not new. Most people envision free-range chickens frolicking happily in a meadow happily laying eggs, but it’s not always the case. Free-range birds are more likely to get sick, injured and die earlier than those kept inside.
Similarly, a cage-free label on your carton of eggs doesn’t automatically guarantee the optimal environment for those hens. Producers will still sometimes force the birds to molt as part of the egg-laying cycle and a cage-free environment does not mean a hen has access to outdoors. Indoor cage-free environments can be dirty and even dangerous for chickens.
As Grandin illustrated in a recent article on Meat and Poultry, the answers are not always so cut and dry:
A large scientific study in commercial hen houses clearly showed that the most welfare-friendly alternative for large-scale commercial layer flocks was an enriched colony cage,” Grandin wrote in the article. She goes on to add, “The cage-free system had problems with dirty eggs, poorer air quality, and increased bird mortality. The results of this study were clearly in favor of the enriched colony cages. Sound science recommended this system to improve bird welfare in large-scale operations.”
In order to secure the health and safety of egg-laying hens, work is yet to be done, Grandin writes.
Still, pretty much everyone agrees battery cages are not the answer.
“Unable even to spread their wings, caged laying hens are among the most intensively confined animals in agribusiness,” according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Ultimately, the cage-free movement is a step in the right direction.