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INVESTIGATION: The Egg Industry’s Practice of Forced Molting

July 21, 2021

Animal Equality has just released a new investigation into the forced fasting of hens to increase their egg production, a cruel practice called “forced molting.” The investigation took place in Mexico’s top egg-producing state, Jalisco. In concert with this investigation, we’ve presented an initiative in the Congress of Jalisco that calls for a ban on forced molting. 

Forced molting deprives hens of water and food for 7-14 days, during which the hens will lose their feathers and stop laying eggs in order to accelerate a new cycle of egg production. This is done so that the hens can be used for a longer period of time so that more income is generated for the producer, which reduces the costs of mass egg production. At the end of the forced fast, many hens will have died. Those that remain will have lost up to 30% of their body weight before they resume egglaying that meets the industry’s expectations.

WHAT WE FOUND: Our investigators documented the following:

  • Hens with inflammation of the cloaca, with the presence of pus and blood
  • Dirty plumage and skin problems
  • Hens with badly cut beaks, and damaged and malformed legs
  • An area of the farm where dying birds are abandoned without veterinary attention
  • Hens with common symptoms of stress such as vocalization, dilated pupils, flight behaviors, and in-fighting
  • Dead, decaying chickens, amongst the living
  • Up to 6 chickens into a cage, with their limbs stuck between the bars
  • Insufficient ventilation, without access to natural light or direct sun
  • Poor sanitary conditions in and around the farm
  • Workers who do not comply with safety and hygiene measures
  • Rusty and dirty cages in poor condition

FORCED MOLTING: A fast for 7-14 days means more than just the loss of the hens’ feathers. The practice also causes bone demineralization, which aggravates leg injuries and diseases caused by living in cages. Dehydration and the extreme stress of the fast leads to immunosuppression, which then causes Salmonella enteritidis, E Coli, and other latent diseases such as avian flu. Many suffer from dermatitis, and the feather loss aids in ammonia burns which occur from the hen’s unchanged litter.

Consumers have the right to know how the food they consume is produced, as well as how animals exploited for the egg industry are treated. The evidence Animal Equality uncovered shows the cruelty of the industry and the suffering forced molting causes hens. It’s time to end the practice for good.

Dulce Ramírez, Vice President of Animal Equality for Latin America

The bill presented to the Congress of Jalisco Congress—the first of its kind to include a chapter on farmed animal welfare in the State Animal Care and Protection Law—is widely supported by local public opinion and includes provisions that:

  • Provide welfare to all animals intended for supply or consumption without making distinctions or exclusions
  • Prohibits forced molting through the deprivation of food and water in chickens used for egg production
  • Defines cage-free systems and regulations for their use
  • Urges the creation of the Official Mexican Standard for the production of cage-free Eggs;
  • Seek a greater professionalization of the handling of animals by specifying that only registered operators, while in the presence of a veterinarian, can perform painful interventions

Forced molting has been banned in areas around the world, including the European Union and India. It’s time Mexico follows suit. We are working tirelessly to make this happen and will continue to expose the cruelty of the industry until changes are made. To make this happen, we need your help. Please use your voice to share the truth about this common practice that happens not only in Mexico but also in the United States. And please, leave animals off your plate.

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