At even the barest grocery store, you probably have a choice between standard or cage-free eggs; at Whole Foods, you’re looking at enough options to make you dizzy. But you can’t count on label-reading to tell you how those egg-laying hens were really treated – Big Ag is way too crafty for that.

That’s why you should know the disturbing truth about what really goes on at those egg farms, no matter what the label says. By the time you’re done reading, that omelette may look a lot less appealing.

Caged: If label has no information about how the hens are housed, you can bet that they’re forced into battery cages, where each bird gets a space about the size of a sheet of paper and cannot even spread her wings. Beaks are cut off with a hot blade to keep the overcrowded hens from injuring one another; this process is so painful, some hens cannot eat afterward, and die of dehydration.

Caged hens are often starved for extended periods of time to unnaturally increase egg production. This is called forced molting, and is so brutal that many chickens die from the process.

Cage-free: These hens are housed in a large room. They may not be in cages, but they’re still stuffed into a very tight space, and will never see the light of day. Like caged hens, they’re beaks are brutally cut, and they may endure forced molting.

Free range/free roaming:

“Free range” farms sound like paradise, right? But these places are nothing like they seem. Hens are crammed into crowded sheds, and may see the sun for just minutes a day. Some never even get outside because the door is blocked by the crowd. Beak-cutting and forced molting are permitted.

See the real story in this 360-degree video of a free range egg farm. It may surprise you.

Pasture rased:

Pasture-raised hens often spend most of the day outdoors, but no regulations exist for this label so you can’t know for sure. Beak cutting and forced molting are also allowed on these farms.

No matter how humane you think any egg farm is, there’s one barbaric practice that happens virtually everywhere: All male chicks are gassed to death or ground alive because the egg industry has no use for them. This is what it looks like:

The reality is that no matter how pretty the package or how much cash you shell out (no pun intended), there truly is no humane egg. So now, the question becomes this: is the benefit of eating eggs truly worth the suffering it causes?