United Egg Producers Certification
The United Egg Producers (UEP) is large trade association that represents producers. According to their website they currently represent about 90% of all eggs produced in the United States. Their currenty Animal Welfare guidelines however states 80% of all eggs, but most likely that’s just an old number and the guidelines haven’t been updated to reflect their growth in certification.
After reviewing their guidelines, is is my opinion that a UEP Certification is the minimum certification a farm should aspire too. It is also the minimum certification I, as an egg eater, would want to purchase. If an egg factory can’t meet a UEP Certification, these eggs are truly not something worth considering. The UEP Certification program ensures reasonable minimum factors in nearly all aspects of production.
Few things of note on the UEP, they allow beak trimming (which is done to reduce cannibalism and damage done by aggressive behavior). But don’t let that dissuade you from UEP certified eggs, as beak trimming is a boon to any factory that has hens in close proximity. If you want factory hens, you want the most humane debeaking you can get. The UEP states that all beak trimming needs to be done the first time when the chicks are under 10 days old. According to the references available on wikipedia, trimming prior to 10 days allows for healing and lack of pain in beak when they are older. Trimming done after 10 days greatly increases the chance of the Hen having acute, chronic pain for her entire life. So, if you are going to eat eggs from debeaked hens, make sure they are debeaked in accordance with the UEP.
Let it be said however, I am neither encouraging nor approving of debeaking. I prefer my eggs to come from pastured hens, however that is not always possible. And IF I am going to purchase factory hens, they need to be debeaked as to be not debeaked in factory conditions increases violent behavior and cannibalism among the chickens. I prefer non-factory conditions, but given the choice between factory debeaked and factory beaked, I’d go with UEP Certified debeaked.
The UEP seems intent on letting you know that all their guidelines are scientifically reviewed and scientifically proven. Statements like “Science has shown…” are commonly used. I have a disagreement with that as to what they mean by “science”, as even depending on the field of science it can state vastly different findings. Scientifically according to what? What is their baseline? Do they check stress levels of chickens? Egg Production? Do they call in a chicken psychologist? You can’t just say “Science says”, you need to specify what factors you are looking at, especially when it involves animals that can’t tell you their subjective feelings on the matter.
- Debeaking in 10 days.
- Outdoor Access: Does not specify required outdoor access on Cage-Free, but stipulates that if provided it must be kept clean.
- Space Per Hen
- Cage-Free Space: 1.5sqr feet per hen
- Caged Space: 67 to 84 sq inches depending on breed (one Sqr foot equals 144 sqr inches)
- Includes general requirements about access to clean feed, clean water, …