If you knew where your food came from, you might never eat again.

Or at the very least, swear off certain foods, like eggs, for instance.

That’s part of the reason why the students at Rutgers that have meal plans are going to cage-free eggs.

The feeling is that the hens that lay the eggs are less stressed than their counterparts in cages, and thus are treated in a more humane fashion, thereby giving students who eat eggs peace of mind.

However there might be some debate as to whether or not that’s true, since both caged animals and “cage-free” animals are being raised on farms that depend on mass production; meaning that the hens have to produce a certain quantity.

And while there’s the notion that the hens are roaming free, one report indicates that the hens, while not in cages, still are treated in less than humane conditions.

For three years, Rutgers University students held meetings, signed petitions and met with campus officials as they passionately advocated for their cause.
But the determined students were not pushing for lower tuition, gay rights or any of the other political causes popular on college campuses.

Their mission: Better eggs in the dining hall.

This summer, Rutgers University became one of the largest colleges in the nation to transition all of its dining halls to cage-free eggs. Students pushed for the switch because, they say, purchasing the costlier eggs — which come from farms that allow hens to roam free — is more humane than using eggs from chickens forced to live in cramped cages.

The change means that students on all Rutgers campuses will pay $10 to $15 more for their meal plans this year, whether they eat eggs or not, university officials said.

The cage-free movement has been growing on college campuses across the nation, where student groups are pressuring their schools to make the change. Harvard, Princeton, the University of Florida and the University of California at Los Angeles are among about 100 campuses that have gone cage-free, according to animal rights groups.

Animal rights groups say the battery cages that hold egg-laying hens are often smaller than a sheet of paper and prevent the birds from spreading their wings or nesting.
Though none of the animal rights groups are arguing cage-free eggs taste any better, they say the eggs are better for the environment and less cruel than standard eggs.

The United Egg Producers, a national industry group, says if all farms went cage-free, the price of eggs would rise significantly. Less than 6 percent of the egg-laying U.S. flock is cage-free, the group said.

(According to one recent Rutgers grad), it was a three-year "struggle" to get the university to agree to buy cage-free eggs. It began with gathering 3,000 signatures on a petition and getting an egg question on the ballot during a student government election.

The referendum was approved by 60 percent of voters.

Since it didn’t target the group it would mostly impact, (the) organization had to get another egg referendum on the next ballot that only surveyed meal-plan holders.

That question passed overwhelmingly, with 99 percent of voters with meal plans saying they were willing to pay more for cage-free eggs. That meant students, not the university, would bear the cost of switching to cage-free eggs.

Last month, the Rutgers board of governors voted to move to cage-free eggs when it approved the university’s student fee hikes.

Students living on campus will pay between $3,686 and $4,976 for their meal plans this year, which includes the $10 to $15 increase for the costlier eggs.

While college students are waging campus campaigns, the transition to cage-free eggs is also happening at hospitals and local businesses, said Kathleen Schatzmann, New Jersey director of the Humane Society of the United States, a nonprofit animal rights organization.

"I think a lot of people are becoming animal-welfare aware as consumers want to eat local or healthy," Schatzmann said.

Going with the prevailing notion that it will cost more in the long run to produce cage free eggs, and knowing full well how much the price of food has gone up drastically in the last year, is it worth the cost to you to eat eggs that are produced in cage-free farms, or do you care at all?