Cover Story The new ethics of eating

The animal-welfare movement gains momentum as consumers pressure farming interests to institute better treatment of chickens, pigs, and other food animals.

By , Correspondent

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

Barn No. 5 at Hilliker’s Ranch Fresh Eggs is about to become a state-of-the-art multiplex for hens. Two massive scaffolding-like structures, each the length of four school buses, are getting their final nuts and bolts, and in a few weeks, 8,000 cage-free chickens will come thronging and clucking into these new “aviary” roosts. Moving freely around the barn, they will perch on rows of shiny bars, nest on private mats, and quench their thirst from tiny water nipples. While one conveyor belt whisks chicken waste out the door, another one will collect the bounty – a nonstop supply of brown and white eggs.