“I wish I were a hen …
I wouldn’t have much to do”; that was the refrain sung by the German group, the Comedian Harmonists in the 1930s. The tranquil world of chicken farming as it was almost 100 years ago has long since disappeared and been replaced by intensive factory systems.
Peter Lüthi, Communications
On average, the typical man or woman in Switzerland consumes 176 eggs per year with significant peaks at Easter and Christmas.
To meet this high demand, nothing is left to chance when it comes to egg production. Farmers use precise feeding plans, light management systems, the specific distribution of nest boxes and stringent hygiene requirements to crank up egg production. These push the hens to their limits and so laying hens are spent in less than one year and are replaced.
Another problem is the loss of diversity. If producers concentrate on just two breeding lines – either for egg laying or meat production, the valuable characteristics of traditional breeds, e.g. disease resistance and diverse phenotypes are lost.
We cannot change from a system of factory farming overnight but if we were to eat slightly fewer eggs this would benefit both the birds and the environment. Organic poultry farming is the more environmentally friendly alternative. It is also more species-appropriate and improves the welfare of the hens.