GAPSA asks for cage-free eggs at U

The organization is pushing UDS to use eggs that don’t come from large hen farms.

JP Leider

Everyone has heard a bad “chicken and the egg” joke.

But large commercial farms, where thousands to hundreds of thousands of poultry are housed in cages, are no laughing matter for members of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.

At a recent assembly meeting, representatives approved a position statement strongly encouraging University Dining Services to use only certified “cage-free” eggs, which don’t come from large hen farms.

In addition, the statement asks UDS to work with local farmers who use cage-free practices.

Minnesota farms produced approximately 3 million eggs last year, 3.3 percent of the 89 million eggs produced in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

GAPSA senator Kris Houlton said she cowrote the statement because UDS is considering moving to cage-free eggs.

“We believe that cage-free eggs are better environmentally, are healthier and it’s a more ethical way to get one’s food,” Houlton said. “Since a lot of us would be eating (cage-free eggs) anyway off campus, it would just be great to have it available on campus.”

Increasing competitiveness in the poultry industry has caused businesses to scale up operations. This has created a debate about the ethics behind large commercial farming.

Larry Jacobson, a University professor who researches livestock housing, said it is not unusual to have several thousand to 250,000 hens in one barn.

“The birds are in cages inside a climate-controlled building,” he said. “They are fed, watered; excrement falls through the cages down to belts or through openings in the floor. It’s all automated.”

Jacobson said the cage-free versus caged-poultry eggs debate is more often about the morality of commercial farming than about the physical differences between the eggs.

“It’s extremely difficult to tell the difference through chemical analysis,” he said. “Most of the difference may be in taste, (from) what’s in their feed.”

While cage-free eggs could cost up to twice as much per carton in a grocery store, the price increase would be reduced if UDS elected to use cage-free eggs, said statement co-author Wendy MacCannell.

She said other institutions across the country that have gone to cage-free eggs pay, on average, 7 cents more per egg.

UDS did not return phone calls by press time.