Media Releases

Undercover Footage Reveals Grim Reality of Canadian Egg Industry’s ‘Enriched’ Cage Housing

TORONTO—New undercover footage from Animal Justice is exposing the troubling realities at the heart of the Canadian egg industry’s wide adoption of so-called “enriched” cage housing systems for hens. 

As egg producers worldwide move towards cage-free egg production and big players like McDonald’s and Starbucks increasingly demand cage-free eggs from their suppliers, the Canadian egg industry has bucked the trend, instead pivoting towards “enriched cage” or “enriched colony” systems. Animal Justice is calling on Burnbrae Farms, Canada’s largest egg producer, to adopt cage-free housing systems instead of condemning hens to a lifetime of caged cruelty.

Small, wire battery cages are widely considered one of most cruel practices in modern farming, and the Canadian egg industry pledged in 2017 to move away from them. But instead of going cage-free, enriched cages prevail, with hens still crammed into crowded spaces without room to spread their wings. Enriched cages tend to be slightly larger and have token flourishes like perches and plastic flaps for hens to lay eggs behind, but they still deprive birds of the ability to engage in natural behaviours such as living in a flock with complex social dynamics.

“The undercover footage from multiple egg farms in British Columbia and Quebec clearly shows that cruelty persists for hens who spend their lives trapped in enriched cages, including injuries, illness, and premature death,” said lawyer Camile Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice. “Hens still spend their lives in filthy conditions in windowless barns, where the ammonia-laden air burns their skin and eyes.” 

“Burnbrae Farms is dragging its feet in going cage-free, deceiving consumers in the process,” Labchuk said. “As Canada’s largest egg producer, Burnbrae should be taking a leadership role in transitioning the egg industry to cage-free housing systems.”

Burnbrae uses marketing terms like “Nestlaid” on its packaging for eggs from hens kept in enriched cages, coupled with images of open fields, misleading Canadians about the true cruelty behind enriched cages and enticing shoppers to pay a premium for a product that they mistakenly believe is more humane.

A recent survey commissioned by Animal Justice found that 57% of Canadian consumers thought Burnbrae’s Nestlaid label meant the hens were housed in better, cageless conditions. A majority of consumers also reported spending more on these different egg varieties because they incorrectly believed the laying hens experience better welfare conditions. 

Another recent poll found 75% of Canadians find enriched cages unacceptable and 80% are against all cages. Yet instead of abandoning cages entirely like the EU and US, Burnbrae and other producers are increasingly moving to enriched cages. In 2016 only four percent of farms used “enriched” cages; by 2021 nearly a quarter of farms used them. Meanwhile the implementation of cage-free systems has remained stagnant. 

You can view Animal Justice’s video exposé here. Additional video clips and still images can be found here.

Josh Lynn
Public Relations Manager
[email protected]

Camille Labchuk
Executive Director
[email protected]