Transformation of poultry production practices from a predominantly open rearing originally into a highly organized and controlled industry in the last century has brought along with it safety problems, haunting the industry. The increased incidences of pathogens related hazardous episodes during the last few years are making both the consumers and the safety agencies jittery and there is a wide spread demand for tightening the regulatory overseeing of this industry. Though the debate on the much talked about "caged vs free" animals was confined amongst animal welfare promoters till recently, it has now spilled into the public arena because of health concerns about the influence of over crowded cages on egg safety.
"In particular, Ohio's egg crop is a health risk, Greger said, largely because of the "battery-cage" units - about the size of an 81/2-by-11 sheet of paper - where laying hens spend most of the 13 months of their lives. They're unable to move around or flex their wings and are surrounded by other cages holding tens or even hundreds of thousands of other hens. It is an atmosphere where salmonella thrives, Greger said, because of an abundance of fecal dust, rodents and insects, and difficulty in sanitizing the cages. By comparison, numerous U.S. and international studies have shown that having cage-free or free-range hens cuts the odds of salmonella contamination by 43 percent, Greger said. What does that mean for egg lovers? Greger cited a study by the American Journal of Epidemiology that concluded people who eat eggs produced by chickens in cages - the vast majority of those in Ohio - are twice as likely to get salmonella poisoning".
Though the arguments against the caging of birds are logical there are also differing views that frown upon the cage free rearing practice. It is contented that hens reared in the open invariably sit on their feces during egg laying increasing the threat of contamination. Probably a via solution lies in redesigning cages giving more moving space for the birds and improving the sanitary and hygiene environment in these poultry houses.