In India since 1919 the Livestock Census has been conducted every 5 years. Poultry is also covered and the second highest rise 12.39% found in the 2012 Census was that of poultry. Very sad because that many more chickens were specially bred and raised to lay eggs and then killed for their flesh.


With the possible exception of fish, the hen is the creature that suffers the most for the sake of our food in sheer number of lives taken – 80% of the meat consumed in India is chicken. If in addition to these numbers, one considers the quality of these lives — lives banished to a lifetime of imprisonment and immobility for laying eggs — then their suffering might exceed that of fish.

Indian Poultry development (valued in 2009 at Rs 20,000 crore and with the involvement of 20 lakh people) continued as a backyard activity for over a decade after India’s independence. Commercial exploitation started in the early 1960s when the Government of India created four central poultry breeding farms. Forty years on, the poultry sector enjoyed industry-status.

Poultry is considered one of the fastest growing segments of the agricultural sector in India. In 2012 ASSOCHAM (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India) declared that egg production is likely to rise from the current level of 7,500 crore to about 9,500 crore by 2015. The compounded annual growth rate for egg production was over 8%. Andhra Pradesh’s egg production was over 30% (2,800 crore per year). Tamil Nadu ranked second with 20%. Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab and West Bengal having less than a 10% share each. And, Karnataka, Kerala and Odisha each produced 5%. (These figures cover hatching and table eggs.)

In 2012 the global market for eggs was 2,000 billion and was said to be rising at the rate of over 60%. India annually exported over 5 crore eggs worth Rs 250 crore mainly to Afghanistan, Algeria, Hong Kong, Maldives, Middle East and African countries. 90% of “high quality, white shell” eggs were exported from Namakkal in Tamil Nadu. In August 2013, shipments from here to Afghanistan, Oman and Bahrain doubled, presumably due to the volatility of the rupee. Although India faced competition from countries such as Pakistan, China, Iran and Bangladesh, new European and West African markets were being explored.

From April to October 2023 (FY 2024) India’s total exports of eggs stood at $53.37mn, a percentage change of 98.56 year-on-year. The top 5 countries that imported from India were Oman, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Qatar and UAE. Then in January 2024 when Russia was facing an egg crisis, Namakkal (known as the “Egg City”) jumped at the opportunity – India had already exported eggs worth $110,000 to Russia during the first 7 months compared to $10,000 a year earlier.

During cold weather the demand for eggs increases, and recedes every summer when consumption of eggs and chickens lessens, except along the east coast during the annual 45-day fishing ban during summer when there is a rise of 5-10% in sales of eggs that are consumed in place of fish. In winter 2010-11 the price of eggs rose to a record high. However, it was claimed by the poultry industry that it did not grow more than around 14% in 2010 because of constraints like lack of basic infrastructure, such as storage and transportation, and the volatility in poultry feed prices.

Intensive Poultry Farming

The relegation of hen to the status of inanimate, unfeeling things is the most tragic outcome of the intensification of poultry farming. To have its bodily freedom snatched away, its every natural instinct frustrated, its parental instincts denied expression, and to be raised in surroundings completely alien to its natural requirements, all at the hands of the creature — man — who has fought wars to retain for himself these very privileges that he now denies the ‘lower’ beings is the story of the moral decline of man.

Hens/chickens are raised as:
• ‘Layers’ females for laying eggs
• ‘Broilers’ males fattened for being killed for meat

Ironically it is the hen (layer) that is raised for remaining alive and ‘producing’ eggs whose quality of suffering is far worse than that of the male chicken (broiler) that is raised to be killed.

Each one of us needs to carefully think if it is ethically right for humans to:
• Grow grain and feed it to chickens instead of humans
• Advertise the co-called ‘benefits’ of consuming chickens and eggs
• Kill chickens for humans to eat
• Know that humans die of starvation due to lack of grains to eat

The sole objective of intensive farming is increased production and economy of operation. India ranks fourth in the world for egg production of around 48 billion per annum with India’s per capita consumption of 47 eggs per person per annum.

As per the Ministry of Agriculture (Government of India) in 2015-16 India’s egg production stood at 82.9 billion and was expected to rise by 5%.

Glimpse into a Poultry Farm

The layer hens are crowded in small cages made of wire-mesh in which they can hardly move or spread their wings. This lack of space to stretch their limbs causes their legs to get deformed. Artificial lighting round the clock simulates daylight and thereby tricks chickens into laying more eggs. Forced moulting through starvation (5 to 14 days) manipulates egg laying to suit economic gain. (It attracts the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960; therefore, in compliance with the March 2011 order of the Animal Welfare Board of India, almost all state governments have issued directions to stop it.) Painful de-beaking is done to prevent them from injuring themselves and others during fights that break out as a natural consequence of their close and stressful confinement. They are fed yellow colour, antibiotics, and hormones daily. It is not surprising that this unnatural and artificial diet could very well include crushed oyster shells called oyster-grit. Every thing fed is for a specific production advantage such as the coloured dye for darker yellow egg-yolks.

As just stated they are fed antibiotics and hormones daily. According to experts there is no doubt that antibiotic shots given to poultry (and seafood) to increase growth, has fuelled antibiotic resistance among non-vegetarians in India. However, in response to the EU pressing to specify withdrawal time on meat and fish exports, India prepared a National Policy for Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance which puts a cap on how much and for how long antibiotics can be pumped into poultry, seafood and other products. Under the new rule for eggs and milk, layers (hens) and milch cattle (cows/she-buffaloes) will have to be off antibiotics for 7 days before they enter the food chain; for poultry and livestock (slaughtered for meat) 28 days; whereas for fish it has been specified at 500 degree days.

Following a World Health organization report warning in 2014 the Drug Controller General of India and the Ministry of Agriculture directed all state governments to stop the use of antibiotics and hormones in cattle, poultry and other animal feed. They also called for strict implementation of the 2012 law which mandated a gap between the time an animal is given a drug and extraction of a food product from the animal as mentioned above. If it is implemented production cost will go up… so it is very likely that chicken and eggs will continue to have serious consequences on humans because of residue of antibiotics and hormones given to poultry as a food additive to prevent disease and promote growth.


This was vindicated by a lab study released in August 2014 by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) which found antibiotic residues in 40% of the muscles, kidneys and livers of chicken samples they tested. The presence of six antibiotics: oxytetracycline, chlortetracycline, and doxycycline (class tetracyclines), enrofloxacin and ciprofloxacin (class fluoroquinolones) and neomycin (an aminoglycoside) were checked for – 17.1% had more than one antibiotic residue. Residues of five of the six antibiotics up to 131.75 micrograms per kilogram, were found in samples tested. Experts and doctors in Delhi and Bangalore reiterated that regular consumers of chicken meat (and eggs) were developing antibiotic resistance. The CSE said the antibiotics used cause an inflammation of the gut mucosa, resulting in faster growth. Roxarsone is anti-microbial and a growth hormone believed to be a source of arsenic contamination in poultry. Obviously then, not only the flesh of chickens, but egg consumption becomes as harmful.

Again in 2017 it was declared that poultry may make consumers resistant to antibiotics. Researchers from the US based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) collected random samples from 530 birds in 18 poultry farms in Punjab and tested them for resistance to a range of antibiotic medications critical to human medicine. They found high levels of antibiotic resistant pathogens in chickens being raised for eggs (42%) and meat (87%), thus posting serious health hazards for humans. Unsurprisingly two-thirds of the farms reported using antibiotics for promoting growth.

Hatched chicks are separated from their mothers at birth. The job of segregating male and female chicks is done by a “chick-sexer”. (The only chick sexing institute that teaches this in India is in Kerala.) The vent technique entails pushing the faeces out of the tiny chick thus opening the anal vent. If a spot and an accompanying bump are visible, the chick is a male, but if the area is flat the chick is female. Thousands of chicks are checked in quick succession resulting in poor handling coupled with little respect
for the small and delicate lives. The demand is mainly for female chicks which are used for breeding. Excess male chicks not to be raised as broilers are generally killed by crushing whereas the female ones are raised for egg production.

Producing Eggs involves more Cruelty than producing Chickens

Practically all vegetarians in India, including those who call themselves ‘pure’ vegetarians, include milk and dairy products in their diets but no other animal products (with the possible exception of honey). Such vegetarianism is termed lacto-vegetarianism and its practitioners called lacto-vegetarians. Traditionally, Indian culture has always regarded eggs as unacceptable for vegetarians. There used to be no question of Brahmins eating eggs, for example. Those vegetarians who would eat eggs would do so acknowledging that they were transgressing the ethic of vegetarianism. Moreover, in 2001 the Government of India amended the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act & Rules, 1955, so that all packaged foods “which contain whole or part of any animal including birds, fresh water or marine animals or eggs as an ingredient” should display a non-vegetarian symbol.

However, periodically this issue has been opened up to interpretation. Arguments about the very definition of vegetarianism, about the issue of whether and what form of life is contained in an egg, about the rationale behind not consuming eggs, are commonly heard; and bombardment of the general public by falsehoods propagated by the National Egg Co-ordination Committee (NECC) sponsored media have all created an atmosphere where the younger generation is openly revolting against the traditional notion that the egg is non-vegetarian.

(The NECC is an umbrella organisation representing large segments of the country’s poultry industry. It was registered as a trust (sic) in 1982 and used the slogan “My Egg, My Price, My Life…” when initially organising over 300 meetings with groups of poultry farmers and traders all over India. It now claims to be the largest single association of poultry farmers in the world with most of India’s egg production coming from NECC members whose numbers have swelled to over 25,000. Layer farmers having 250 or more birds and egg dealers handling 12,000 or more eggs per day are entitled to become members of NECC on payment of the requisite fee.)

Unfortunately, certain politicians are also known to both directly and subtly promote egg consumption. It is up to the public to realise that vested interests are involved.

At such a time of confused values, Beauty Without Cruelty would like to put forward its code of ethics in this matter and remind the readers why eating eggs must be considered completely unacceptable:

A fertile egg carries potential life. In time, it could hatch into a chicken. Cases have been known when people breaking an egg into the frying pan have had to see the unmistakable shape of the semi-formed body parts of the yet-developing life inside splattered on their pan. In short, an egg is an under-developed embryo. A 2013 news item carried a photo of an egg tray with a few eggs shells cracking open, and another photo of the hatched chicks. The chicks emerged due to high temperature.

People argue that they eat only unfertilised eggs. All the eggs that come from traditional farming are fertile ones, i.e. carrying a live embryo inside them. Mixing of fertile eggs with infertile ones that come from intensive poultry farms is a frequent occurrence. Moreover it is quite common for some unwanted fertile eggs from factory farms to be passed off for sale along with the infertile ones. It is impossible to make out an unfertilised egg from a fertilised one by looking at it. Besides, suppliers of eggs may not be segregating their eggs even if they do take the trouble to identify the fertilised eggs. Retailers might be stocking eggs from more than one supplier. The consumer cannot claim to be able to spot the unfertilised eggs in such cases.

Perhaps the strongest reason for some to avoid eggs is the shocking conditions in which hen are kept on poultry farms for laying eggs: confined inside barren wire cages, barely able to move let alone build a nest, perch, dust or bathe, and by keeping the light on overnight, they remain awake and are tricked into doubling their egg production. Consuming eggs amounts to supporting such cruel practices for the most trivial purpose like baking a cake or a most harmful habit like eating omelettes regularly for breakfast – more the consumption of eggs, higher the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Some times retail outlets under special promotional schemes give away non-vegetarian items against purchases made over a particular amount, e.g. Reliance Fresh has given 6 eggs free from Delight (a store next door that sells only non-vegetarian items like chicken, mutton, fish and eggs) to those who have bought goods worth Rs 225 or more from their outlet. Beauty Without Cruelty feels vegetarians should strongly object to such non-veg gifts, not simply take them because they are free and pass them on to some one who consumes them.

Battery Cages vs. Free-Range

After having made an appeal on its website requesting views on rearing, transport, maintenance and sale of poultry, in July 2017 the Law Commission submitted its report No 269 entitled “Transportation and House-keeping of Egg-laying Hens (layers) and Broiler Chickens” to the Union Minister of Law & Justice.

With an idea of putting an end to the cruel practices of confining birds in battery cages, the Commission recommended certification of poultry farms by the Animal Husbandry Departments of States, where a distinction of produce obtained from cage free egg farming from that obtained from battery cage farming is drawn. The Commission particularly felt that the weight of the birds should be an important factor in calculation of maximum stocking density. Given the gravity of the issue of battery cages and the fact that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg Laying Hens) Rules bill had been pending since 2012 the Commission proposed 2 sets of modified rules to be notified: The PCA (Egg Laying Hens) Rules 2017 and The PCA (Broiler Chicken) Rules 2017.

In response, the Poultry Federation of India said given the scale of India’s poultry industry, free-range farming was not possible. Others from the industry felt free-range farming would lower yields and increase incidence of disease with birds being exposed to droppings.

Salving Ones Conscience

Eggs in India are labelled as regular (from hens kept in small cages with high output), brown/white (colour of shells derived from breed of hen), barn-laid (eggs laid by so-called happier hens because they have more room to move around), organic (eggs laid by hens fed pesticide-free grains, and fed no antibiotics, hormones or meat by-products), omega-3 and nutritionally enhanced/premium (hens housed in battery cages fed a special diet of canola, linseed and flax seed and/or given folate, lutein and vitamins so the nutritional benefit is found in the eggs they lay), processed eggs (pasteurised eggs in liquid, frozen or dried form) and in a baffling irony infertile eggs are disgustingly called vegetarian – so much so that some hatcheries in Namakkal and Erode have begun saying that as their egg-laying hens are on a vegetarian diet (soy flour in place of fish meal) the eggs they lay are vegetarian. Whereas others ridiculously claim “if hens are fed with fish residue, the healthy cholesterol-battling Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil easily move through the hen’s digestive system to the yolk of the egg which is otherwise a cholesterol bomb and even the chicken will be relatively healthy.”

Abroad eggs that are not as cruelly obtained as through battery/intensive farming practices are labelled for sale describing how the hens were raised or what they were fed, or what extra benefits the particular eggs might provide; they are also graded depending on firmness and size. Some of the terms used on the labels are cage free, free range, omega-3 fortified, organic, certified humane and also vegetarian meaning infertile eggs. This trend is fast catching on in India and ironically is being promoted by foreign animal welfare organizations. They say in 2008, of the 232.2 million egg-laying hens as many as 200 million lived in battery cages that are not banned in India, but by 2011 supply of some cage-free hens’ eggs to a few restaurants and hotels in Delhi and Mumbai began and is seen by BWC as yet another gimmick to promote egg consumption. The eggs are available under different certified labels like cage-free, stress-free, tension-free, humane and organic – all at double the cost to the consumer of course!

“Egg-less” this and that, typically cakes, long became the norm in India. Every one very well knows that there is no such thing as a vegetarian egg – all eggs are non-vegetarian and will forever be so. All they are trying to do is entice vegetarians into eating eggs. And egg powder some times finds its way as an ingredient. Moreover, the government came out with a specific scheme to “rescue” exporters of egg powder. Rescuing is obviously not needed because in 2008 there were only three major exporters – SKM, Venkateshwara and Ovobel – that constituted a market worth Rs 230 crore.

So-called Health Benefits

Both the desi and vilayati eggs have been turned into “herbal eggs” and ridiculously compared with tulsi and amla in goodness. These new Keggs were launched at an exhibition at NDRI, Karnal in December 2009. Suguna entered the branded egg market a year earlier with four varieties: Active, Heart, Pro and Shakti. SKM Eggs Products’ Best eggs are also branded and Vangili Feeds branded ones target “the health conscious urban population of children, diabetic husband, weak-hearted father, pregnant wife,” and so on. Somnath Poultry have branded their eggs Good Eggs claiming they are “good for your health” etc. Claiming to have special nutritional features such as low cholesterol, high DHM content and folic acid, several brands of eggs are being marketed by big retail stores like Easy Day, Spencers, Metro, and More – of the 360 crore of eggs consumed every month, 60 lakh are branded with an annual growth rate of 20%.

In another bid to increase egg consumption and boost sales, UK scientists have come up with a ready-to-eat hard-boiled variety of egg whereas Eggspresso or Egg in an Instant is beaten eggs in a carton; and another claim that ‘2 eggs a day cuts cholesterol…’ cleverly adding not so prominently ‘while on a calorie restricted diet’ to the sentence. In such cases, it would be worth finding out who sponsored the new study which overturned the findings of a previous study which was not helpful to the industry. Earlier studies have all suggested a direct link between eating eggs and an increase in blood cholesterol levels thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. Despite it being scientifically established that egg consumption results in high cholesterol levels, every now and then some poultry industry sponsored study strives to prove that there is no significant correlation between eggs and cholesterol.

Interestingly, a Harvard team came to the conclusion that the risk of death was raised in middle-aged men who ate 7 or more eggs a week since 23% of them died during their 20 year study. May be their findings would have been no different had they observed those that consumed lesser than 7 eggs a week.

In yet another claim from the UK states that the smell of rotting eggs encourages men to have sex which sounds absolutely bizarre! It is obviously a ploy to sell unsold spoilt eggs.

India is no better, and a gimmick to promote eggs here was a “jumbo hen egg” weighing 162 grams, laid at a poultry farm in Punjab which got listed as the biggest in the 2009 special edition of the Limca Book of Records.

Making Fabergé style decorative egg boxes with actual poultry eggs is being taught by crafts persons. (The Russian Peter Carl Fabergé jewelled eggs are made of precious metals and enamel.) Some artists carve designs on duck egg shells.

The World Egg Day is observed on the second Friday of October and in India too the media help promote it. Full page coverage is given by leading newspapers highlighting the so-called nutritional benefits of eggs and urging people to eat them. Significantly, alongside such articles or some where else in the same issue there are always a couple of advertisements released by the NECC, All India Poultry Development & Services Pvt Ltd or allied organisations. In other words, the propaganda on eggs is linked to their advertising clout. A commercial advisement released by them often, based on a Hindi film song jingle has adapted a popular rhyme “Meri jaan, meri jaan, Sunday ke Sunday” and the catchy line targets children: “Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao Andé”.

The 2011 advertisement released by the NECC was misleading in as much that it showed a collage of foods like spinach, almonds, cheese, milk, carrots, oranges, beans, fish and meat shaped like an egg, stating that was the nutrition one got from one egg.

A 2014 printed advertisement for a vegetarian protein supplement bursts the claim that “one egg a day is all the protein needed” stating it is a myth, not fact. The ad goes on to say that the daily protein requirement is 1 gm per kilogram of body weight which would mean one would roughly need to consume 10 eggs a day! 

Eggs have been falsely advertised as the cheapest and best source of protein – ideal for the poor. The fact is that an egg costs Rs 3 and has about 6-7 grams of protein, so Rs 0.43 is the cost of one gram. It contains 210 mg of cholesterol and 50% of its calories are fat. No fibre. No complex carbohydrates. In comparison, beans contain 20-40% protein and cost between Rs 40-80 per kilogram, therefore the cost per gram of this protein ranges from Rs 0.20 to Rs 0.40. Beans derive 15% of calories from fat. Not only do they contain no cholesterol but their consumption lowers cholesterol. Plus they carry the benefit of high fibre content. Over and above which oil is an even cheaper source of protein. In short, the poor would benefit cost-wise and health-wise by consuming beans, not eggs.

Although the cancer-causing industrial dye called Sudan Red has been banned, it has been used in Hong Kong and China to colour egg yolks. And more recently eggs, just like milk originating from China, have tested positive for melamine resulting in three death and several other jail sentences including some life sentences.

Salmonellosis is however a common occurrence in those who consume eggs which have as they say been “improperly handled”. Symptoms include abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, chill within 72 hours of consuming. The source of this food poisoning is especially eggs, poultry, raw meat and milk. Eggs have the highest count of coliform bacteria which can result in salmonella infection. They easily contaminate other food during storage.

In August 2010 bacteria found in chicken feed used at two Iowa farms was linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened almost 300 people in at least 10 states of the country and prompted the recall of more than a half billion contaminated eggs in the USA.

Similarly, more than 100,000 eggs were destroyed in Germany in January 2011, due to an animal feed additive that contained dioxin.

Although two of three authors of a 2012 study had vested interest in statin drugs, the study claimed that eating egg yolks on a regular basis is approximately two-thirds as bad as smoking with regards to arterial plaque formation. This was followed in January 2013 by the British Medical Journal clearing all charges against eggs related to heart disease!

Avian/Bird Flu

The first outbreak of Avian/Bird Flu in India in 2006 made people scared to consume eggs and broiler chickens as a result of which the demand fell. Massive losses were incurred by the poultry sector due to ‘culling’ thousands of chickens (and other fowl such as ducks in the area). This made the NECC immediately launch a nation-wide campaign to reassure consumers that properly cooked eggs and chickens were safe and organised nearly 800 egg melas. In addition they stepped up their efforts to promote year-round egg consumption along with hyped nutritional qualities and benefits.

Meanwhile, frequent outbreaks of Bird Flu occur in different parts of the country, particularly in the North East. For example, in February 2011, 2,000 chickens and ducks died in 17 days in Tripura resulting in the state government immediately killing more than 20,500 chickens and ducks and destroying lakhs of eggs up to a 10 km radius of the infected area. Bird flu again resurfaced in West Bengal in September 2011. The five Indian states bordering Bangladesh (West Bengal, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam and Tripura) are said to be vulnerable to bird flu with Dhaka failing to check the contagious disease and due to smuggling of chicken and duck products into India.

Unlike the 2009 bird flu that caught Kerala unaware, the November 2012 bird flu news resulted in a strict ban on chickens and eggs from neighbouring states. (Eggs are used in 40% of bakery items like biscuits and cakes.)

The NECC continue in their false propaganda extolling the nutritive value of eggs, schemes for marketing eggs such as introducing them in mid-day meals of school children have attracted the wrath of vegetarians in all states, especially when numerous cases of food poisoning have been registered. State governments of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab included eggs in their mid-day meals, but they were later withdrawn. The NECC used all possible convincing means to ensure that not only were eggs reintroduced in Tamil Nadu, but increased from two to three as claimed by them. However, in Madhya Pradesh bowing to opposition from the Jain community, the Chief Minister declared that eggs would not be served in the state’s anganwadis under the Atal Bal Aarogya and Poshan Mission launched on Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti 2010 that seek to address malnutrition. Again in 2013, there was a move in MP to introduce eggs in the mid-day meal scheme. An internal state government communication clearly indicated that it would "enable larger uptake of eggs in the State boosting the commercial poultry sector". This was reiterated by the CM in 2015.

In August 2010 when India was producing around 14 crore eggs daily and consuming all but 30 lakhs that were used to make egg powder, the Ministry of Defence gave a big boost to the poultry sector by increasing the daily quota of eggs for Jawans and for this an additional Rs 250 crores was allocated in the annual budget. This then translated to nearly 5% of the total eggs sold every day in India. Till then Jawans deployed above 9000 ft and those in forward areas were getting one egg per day, while those below officer rank in peace time posting were not given eggs.

The Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency has approved a poultry-waste power plant is to be set up in Barwala (Panchkula district). The estimated cost of the project is around Rs 40 crore and the Haryana Poultry Farmers Association will have a stake in the power plant. 775 tonne of poultry waste is expected to be used daily in order to generate 6 mw of power. In April 2011 Haryana stated that its daily egg production was 1.5 crore and that the state had 133 big poultry farms with 3 lakh birds each. Plus, a hi-tech farm with 10 lakh birds was coming up at Jind, and that Gurgaon was no longer a big poultry hub because a poultry farm owner could earn much more selling the land on which his farm stands, than he would earn by selling chicken and eggs in his entire life. (Strange but true that the chicken and eggs are marketed in Delhi and other places since Haryana is basically a vegetarian state.)

With regard to energy, research at the University of Delaware using chicken feathers is being undertaken to produce energy. The fibres in feathers are composed of a protein called keratin. When heated in the absence of oxygen keratin forms structures similar carbon nanotubes which are ideal for storage of hydrogen to be used as gas. And, a study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln feels that chicken feathers are an inexpensive and abundant source for development of thermoplastics (one of the two major groups of plastics that include nylon, polyethene, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and others) widely used to make consumer and industrial products ranging from toothbrush bristles to car bumpers. In UK and USA, processes to clean and powder egg shells to fill biodegradable plastics that bolster strength were developed in 2016.

The National Rural Livelihood Mission scheme launched in 2013-14 meant for the economically deprived women charges Rs 2,250 for 25 1-month old chicks. Similarly, in October 2018 Uttar Pradesh launched a scheme under which 50 chicks were given free to women to fight malnutrition with egg and meat consumption. However, the majority of the chicks died.

In September 2018 the Maharashtra Animal Husbandry Commissioner made it mandatory for poultry farms with 5,000 birds or with a capacity of hatching 500 eggs per cycle to be registered. Around 19000 such farms were in existence. Furthermore other advisories issued included a series of dos and don’ts for the sector.

Blood Money

The VH Group (Venkateshwara Hatcheries) has made so much blood money that in November 2010 their newly formed company Venky’s London Ltd tookover the Blackburn Rovers Football and Athelic club for GBP 23 million.

As dusk falls it is common to see handcarts selling eggs (hard-boiled, fried or bhurji) in almost every town, kasba and village of rural India because it has become the favoured snack that accompanies liquor.

Unfortunately the success of poultry farming can be mainly attributed to Government support by way of liberal credit schemes by Banks and promotion of egg consumption via the national media. Also, had the Government of India not included intensive poultry farming as an agricultural activity, this killing industry would not have grown to the extent it has today. Poultry research is funded in Government run institutions and universities and the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Exports Development Authority (APEDA) assists with infrastructure development for export. APEDA also provides an airfreight subsidy for exports of eggs and egg products, mostly to the UAE. Total Government support for the poultry sector was Rs 105 million in fiscal year ending March 2005.

Although unsuccessful, BWC has periodically strongly objected to the setting up of different national boards like the National Meat and Poultry Processing Board, to promote meat, poultry, fish, etc. Quite frankly, it is not the job of the Government to be promoting the business of killing.

In 2015 the NECC did not hesitate to appeal to the Government of India to grant a moratorium for a period of one year on repayment of interest and bank loans availed by the poultry industry, interest subvention of at least 6% for a period of 3 years, and additional working capital loans to meet the increase in the cost of production. The body stated that for 4 years there had been an increase in cost of poultry feed but the farm-gate price of eggs had not increased. The average cost of production for egg had gone up from Rs 2.60 per egg last year to Rs 3.50 but the farm-gate price was no more than Rs 3.25 resulting in a loss. (Similarly the average cost of broilers had increased from Rs 65-67 per kg live weight to Rs 70-75 whereas the average farm-gate price was Rs 60-65.) It was difficult to believe the industry was running at a loss, that too for years.

In the CD circulated by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) they have recommended the following for Poultry farmers:

“Poultry Layer Farming:
Processing/Marketing: Birds should not be kept on the farm beyond 18 months of age, as their egg production will go down considerably and their efficiency of feed conversion will reduce progressively as they grow older.” (BWC explanation: lives are not important; making money is the bottom line.)

“Pointer for higher egg production: Unsuitable and uneconomic birds should be timely culled.” (BWC explanation: culling = killing.)

The above recommendations for poultry farming by NABARD (who represent the Government of India) are as outrageous, if not worse than those given by them for sheep and dairy farming. In fact, NABARD recommends the breeding of many species of animals/birds/fish with the sole aim of killing them – for commercial gain. BWC sees it as hinsa/killing in the so-called land of ahinsa/no-killing.

In short, poultry farming is nothing but a business that kills and aims to expand (read breed more, kill more) in which integrators enter into agreements with farmers and supply day-old chicks, feed and medicines. Farmers get continuous training on broiler management and technology to produce killed ready to cook and ready to eat carcasses.

Not only NABARD, but the Kerala state government feels it should be promoting poultry farming and what could be worse than to introduce it to school girls in 500 schools in Palakkad. The first poultry club scheme was inaugurated in February 2014 at the Government Moyan Girls High School under which 5 chickens would be given free to 100 students so that they were encouraged to “take up food production at a young age”.

Precious Grain Consumed by Poultry

One of the least-known or acknowledged facts of the meat-based diet is that it is the main cause of making food that is grown unavailable to hungry humans. This is especially true in the intensive method poultry farming. Grains that are perfectly edible by humans, such as maize and soy meal (and when expensive wheat, millet/bajra, broken rice and rice-bran) are instead fed to chickens that are then killed to eat their flesh. More than 80% of the maize/corn grown in India and up to 50% per or at least 3 million tonnes which is roughly one-third of India’s production of soy meal is fed to chickens annually. In fact the Indian poultry industry consumes close to 15 million tonne of feed annually with an estimated value of Rs 15,000 crore. Bumper corn and soy crops always reduce the price of poultry feeds which constitute close to 70% of production costs. (Interestingly, Bihar produces 10% of India’s corn whereas the highest producers of poultry feed are Andhra Pradesh at 17%, then Rajasthan at 14%, followed at 12% by Madhya Pradesh.)

At the end of 2014 the poultry market declared it had grown to 80% consumption in urban India and was expanding in rural India due to lower prices. Estimated to be worth Rs 90,000 crore, 65,000 million eggs and 3.8 million tonnes of broiler chickens are produced annually and for which 12 million tonnes of maize and 4 million tonnes of soy meal are needed.

The feed-to-egg ratio: 2 kilograms of grain needs to be fed to hens to produce the same amount of
protein found in approximately 8 eggs.

If nothing else, this information should make people immediately stop consuming chicken and eggs as a step towards ending starvation. And, those who are considering investment in poultry and allied products should remember that for some reason or other this industry sees high instances of fraud and misappropriation by employees.

Demanding Closure

In July 2012 the people of Vizianagaram district in Andhra Pradesh wanted to make sure that a poultry farm in their area perishes – their protests against the stink (air pollution) resulting in health problems for the villagers, were not working. A mob therefore barged into the Radha Sakku Agro Bio Pharma poultry farm and switched off the power supply. The farm authorities said this resulted in the death of 7 lakh birds. The birds, bred for slaughter, were going to be killed any way so let’s hope that at least this one farm is not resurrected.

In 2015 almost 100 small and medium poultry farms in Maharashtra at Sangli, Satara, Solapur, etc. were forced to shut down due to high production costs making it an unviable business. Luckily the hording of maize and soy continues so more poultry farms will close.

Koni-juj or Egg Fight

Koni-juj is played in Assam between pairs as part of Goru Bihu (April) festivities, and to a lesser extent during Bhogali Bihu (January). It involves one person holding an egg vertically while another taps from the top with his egg. The one whose egg breaks loses.

Egg fight or egg tapping is a traditional Easter game. Hard boiled and even coloured eggs are used and the winner is the person whose egg has not been broken, but has broken the highest number of others’ eggs.

Alternatives for Eggs in Cooking

Eggs unfortunately find their way into many dishes labelled vegetarian. Unlike in the direct egg dishes like omelettes, fried eggs, boiled eggs, etc., the purpose of adding eggs to other dishes like cakes, kneaded flours, and batters is to impart some properties to the dish to aid its preparation or to affect its final appearance and texture.

The use of eggs can therefore be successfully substituted with veg ingredients, depending on their role in recipe like for binding, thickening, and so on.

It is however important for the replacement to blend well with the recipe, e.g. flaxseed wouldn’t work in a smooth batter; and if more than two eggs are required to be replaced it’s best not to use the recipe, but if you must, then add ½ teaspoon baking powder per additional egg substitution to help in rising.

Some alternatives for each purpose are discussed below:

Any thing bland, viscous and thick enough to hold together the ingredients used will work. 1 egg can be replaced with ½ an avocado or banana (sweet), ¼ cup pumpkin/squash or puréed prunes (sweet) or applesauce (sweet), 2 tablespoons tahini or fine bread crumbs. 1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds and 3 tablespoons of water whisked till gelatinous also replaces 1 egg and is suitable for baking particularly whole-grain items. Similarly chia seeds could also be used.

: For every egg to be replaced in baked goods use ½ a mashed banana or a mixture of 2 tablespoons corn flour with 2 tablespoons water. As mentioned above, 1 tablespoon of finely ground flax seeds and ½ cup of water blended together until the mixture is thick, can replace egg white in several items.

The texture of egg in certain dishes can be approximated by other ingredients. For example, gram flour (besan/channa atta) can be used instead of eggs to make ‘omelettes’ with tomatoes, onions, green chillies. Such a dish is enjoyable in its own right without comparing it to the taste of egg. It also does away with the objectionable smell associated with egg.

: Eggs are added to baked products for their leavening property. They cause the dough to rise, making the product fluffy. Soda water, baking soda, soda bicarbonate can be used instead of eggs for baking cakes. A mixture of vinegar and baking soda also acts as a leavening agent as their reaction generates the carbon dioxide gas that leavens the cake. 1 teaspoon baking soda mixed with 1 tablespoon white vinegar can replace 1 egg to make fluffier baked goods.

: Eggs are often added to thicken gravies. Corn flour or arrowroot flour can be used as a thickening agent to replace eggs in gravies and soups.

¼ cup silken tofu can be used in place of 1 egg for baking cakes. First blend in a mixer so it becomes smooth and creamy.

: Oil mixed in a little water can be used to replace eggs used for coating and glazing breads, biscuits, tarts, buns, etc.

There are several commercially made egg-replacers or egg-substitutes available. They usually contain ingredients such as potato, tapioca or corn starches, sorghum, peas, cellulose, cream of tartar, nutritional yeast flakes, and often kala namak.

Just like soy is cooked with the same spices to mimic meat, tofu spiced with kala namak is considered by vegans a good alternative smell- and taste-wise to eggs, especially if scrambled or in a salad as a replacement to hard-boiled eggs.

But, do beware of “fake eggs” that can very well be non-veg and poisonous. They are made in China and consist of calcium carbonate, starch, resin, gelatine, alum and other chemical substances. They look exactly like eggs in a fragile shell, and can even be fried to perfection!

Page last updated on 03/04/24