Nick Cooney, director of the Humane League of Philadelphia, a nonprofit group that encourages people to switch to eggs produced by cage-free chickens, thinks Penn State students have been ignored and disrespected for too long.
Penn State students have tried to convince University Residential Dining since 2006 to buy eggs from farms that do not use battery cages for chickens. Cooney said that University Residential Dining did not take student concerns into consideration even though it was given evidence citing the benefits of using eggs from cage-free chickens.
For Cooney, there are four main reasons to switch from battery-caged to cage-free chickens:
- Animal welfare: Battery-caged chickens have a space less than the size of a sheet of paper to move around in and must live in the feces of other birds all of their lives.
- Environment: The feces they live in creates manure-related pollution.
- Human safety: In the past five years, nine separate scientific studies have reported cases of salmonella that have resulted from battery cage eggs.
- Farm laborers: Battery farm conditions are unpleasant to work in. By letting chickens roam free, more jobs are created to collect the eggs.
Penn State cites information that its eggs are safe, despite the battery cages. Since 1992, Pennsylvania took precautions to reduce the risk of Salmonella enteritidis with flock-testing and management programs, the first state to do so.
According to an article by The Poultry Site, “In 1992, 38 percent of Pennsylvania flocks tested positive for Salmonella enteritidis. Today, about 8 percent test positive. Environmental controls have been even more successful. In 1992, 26 percent of samples from Pennsylvania hen houses tested positive. Today, that is down to 1 per cent.”
While safety improvement is good, CageFreePSU.com wants more.
A current petition with strong student support for cage-free eggs is currently circulating. About 6,500 students and faculty have signed the petition so far. Another 3,500 are expected to sign within the next two to three weeks. Anyone interested can sign the petition here.
“The information [University Residential Dining] gave is printed-out talking points from the main lobby group for battery cages,” Cooney said. “The claims and talking points are not true. There’s a link between battery cages and salmonella.”
University Residential Dining had no comment.