Farm animals - secondary assembly
Aims and objectives
To learn that there are different farming methods for the production of hens' eggs and to understand that the decisions that consumers make can have a direct effect on animal welfare.
You will need
- A projector and a screen
- A piece of A4 paper or card
- Egg labelling
- Barn and free-range systems
- Animals' needs
- Freedom Food logo
- Egg boxes
- Beforehand, download the photos of egg boxes to be shown on a screen (see activity sheet Egg boxes). Research the current local prices of six eggs from free-range, barn and caged hens.
- Explain that the theme of this assembly is going to be shopping and our choices.
- Ask the students to imagine that they have gone to the local supermarket to buy a box of eggs. Explain that they are going to be given just three seconds to look at each one before deciding which one to buy.
- Project the images of the three egg boxes in turn, leaving each on the screen for around three seconds. (Egg box one shows eggs from barn hens, egg box two showseggs from caged hens and egg box three shows Freedom Food eggs from free-range hens). Tell the students the price of each box of eggs.
- Ask the students to show which they would buy by a show of hands.
- Ask some of the students what influenced their choices. Packaging? Price? What the person next to them chose?
Main issues and problems
- Describe the methods of the production system for each type of eggs, using the factsheets Egg labelling and Barn and free-range systems. Use the A4 piece of paper to illustrate the amount of usable space that each hen has in a battery cage. How does each system meet the basic needs of the hens? Highlight these needs using the factsheet Animals¿ needs.
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease
- Freedom to express normal behaviour
- Freedom from fear and distress.
- Look in more detail at the information given on the labels of the egg boxes in the photos. All egg boxes should say how the eggs were produced ¿ caged, barn or free-range. How clearly marked is this on each box? Can we see it on the label? If not, it is likely to be printed on the back. How a hen appears on an egg box is not necessarily an accurate representation of how it lives. For example, just because an egg box shows an image of a hen outside that does not mean that the eggs are from free-range hens! Can the students guess what kind of eggs they are if the method of production is printed in small print on the back?
- Why do the students think that some hens are farmed in cages? It is so that they can be produced in large quantities and sold cheaply.
- Ask some students whether they noticed how the eggs they chose were produced. For those who did notice, which did they choose? Was it a factor in their decision?
What can we do?
- As consumers, how can we make a difference to the way in which hens are kept? Discuss the way in which demand for higher welfare foods influences supply.
- Some people believe that it is worth paying a few pence more per egg to make sure that hens have happier lives.
- Show the Freedom Food logo (see teachers' notes). The RSPCA¿s Freedom Food scheme only allows farms that rear animals that have been inspected to higher welfare standards to use its label.
- Suggest to the students that, the next time they are in a supermarket, they should look at the number of products that carry that logo and remember that those animals will have been inspected to higher welfare standards.
- See the RSPCA webpage on laying hens for up-to-date information about the different egg production systems.
Did you know?
- Since 1 January 2012 the barren battery cage has been banned across the EU. However, the so-called 'enriched' battery cage is still permitted. Although the enriched battery cage does provide some additional facilities and slightly more usable space (an extra 50cm2 per hen - about the size of a beer mat), the RSPCA does not believe that these are adequate enough to provide for the full behavioural and physical needs of laying hens. Visit the RSPCA webpage about laying hens for more information on enriched battery cages.