Researchers at Michigan State University and the University of California, Davis, are leading a national study of housing alternatives for egg-laying hens.

Scientists will analyze tens of thousands of hens to determine how different housing environments affect animal health and well-being, safe and affordable food, the environment and worker welfare.

Researchers will look at cage-free, free-range and “enriched” (nests and perches) housing. As organic consumers already know, any of these alternatives is preferable to factory farms.

“The coalition anticipates a multiyear study to factor in seasonal shifts, bird life cycles and other factors,” says Janice Swanson, PhD, a professor of animal behavior and welfare at Michigan State.