In the European Union, hens can no longer be kept in tiny battery cages that pack them so tightly they could not walk or flap their wings.
The EU voted to ban the cages in 1999 but gave the poultry industry 12 years to implement the switch-over. As of 2012, the use of battery cages is illegal. The new cages give hens more space and must have nest boxes, which animal welfare experts say are key to keeping chickens from stressing out. (They need a little bit of privacy to feel comfortable laying an egg, which is understandable! Would you want to lay an egg in the middle of a crowd?) Some farmers have also switched over to barns or free-range systems.
No surprise that the U.S. isn’t so enlightened, though. And even if it were, the updated rules are meant to make chickens non-miserable, not cloud-nine open-yard omg-look-at-that-worm happy. So the bottom’s not going to drop out of the organically-sourced happy chicken egg market any time soon. (Also, eggs that come straight out of a backyard chicken’s behind will continue to taste the best.)