The Physicians Committee

Cage-Free Eggs: Still Bad for Human Health

  May 4, 2016    

Another day, another company says that it is switching to so-called “cage-free” eggs: 7-Eleven announced yesterday that it will go “cage-free” by 2025. But the “cage-free” label is, in fact, little more than another industry ploy to pretend that eggs are something other than inhumane and unhealthy. Inhumane because thousands of birds will still be crammed together in factory-like operations. Unhealthy because eggs are still loaded with cholesterol.


The egg industry has been a master of deception. Look at what is happening right now in Congress. Industry groups that peddle commodities supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are currently urging the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on agriculture to exempt the American Egg Board and other commodity boards from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that make their communications and records public.

Why? Last year, the food technology company Hampton Creek found out through a FOIA request that the American Egg Board tried to quash its Just Mayo—an eggless, plant-based mayonnaise.

The Physicians Committee also uncovered unscrupulous American Egg Board activities through our own FOIA request. We learned that the American Egg Board directly nominated one individual who was placed on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which recommended removing cholesterol warnings from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Another member was actively receiving egg-industry research grants, and two others worked at a university that requested and received more than $100,000 from the American Egg Board for research aimed at challenging the cholesterol limits.

In violation of federal law, the American Egg Board has made a longstanding effort, costing several million dollars, to change federal policies and make cholesterol appear to be safe. Approximately 90 percent of research studies on dietary cholesterol are now funded by the egg industry.  

So we filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, alleging that the government had allowed the food industry and financial inducements to dictate the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendations on cholesterol.

Ultimately, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans retained cholesterol warnings, stating:

“As recommended by the IOM, individuals should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible … Strong evidence from mostly prospective cohort studies but also randomized controlled trials has shown that eating patterns that include lower intake of dietary cholesterol are associated with reduced risk of CVD, and moderate evidence indicates that these eating patterns are associated with reduced risk of obesity. … Dietary cholesterol is found only in animal foods such as egg yolk, dairy products, shellfish, meats, and poultry.”

Eggs are also linked increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, foodborne illness, and a range of other health problems.

So rather than cage-free, it’s best to go egg-free. But until that happens, the 2017 House Agricultural Appropriations Bill should not exempt the American Egg Board or any other government-supported commodity groups from providing the American public information on decisions that impact both human and animal lives.  


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