Cage-free eggs are pretty commonplace on supermarket shelves. But if you imagine they must come from a bunch of chickens roaming around the farmyard politely clucking, you're sadly mistaken.
The definition for "cage-free" is quite literal: All it means is that the hens aren't kept in cages. It doesn't mean they're treated well. They can still be cooped up in large industrial chicken houses with no room to walk around.
Think "free-range" is any better? In order for chicken to be labeled as "free-range," they must have access to the outdoors. But that outside space doesn't need to be very big.
Not all cage-free eggs come from hens confined to small quarters, however, nor are all free-range chickens cooped up. "The Story of an Egg," one of 25 short films nominated in the PBS Online Film Festival, speaks to several farmers who raise chickens with plenty of space to roam free. And they don't have particularly kind things to say about farmers who do otherwise.
Which isn't surprising given the conditions caged chickens can suffer: Some are even debeaked so they don't peck each other.
Take a look at "The Story of an Egg":