US food companies under pressure

Several major US food companies have been exposed for failing to meet their public commitments to source 100% cage-free eggs from their egg supply chains by the end of last year.


any of the food companies’ commitments to move to cage-free eggs were made in the middle of the last decade and have been monitored by welfare organisations such as

Compassion in World Farming and the Humane Society. Com- passion in World Farming took a global approach as part of its annual Egg Track report which last year reported that of the 210 companies tracked around 63% had reported progress towards their commitments. For example, it cited Danone for increasing its global cage-free sourcing from 45% to 88%, with Aramark, Sodexo and Compass Group all reporting glob- al progress across all egg types; shell, liquid and processed. Since 2016, the number of companies with a global cage-free commitment has grown from five to at least 37, including global giants such as Unilever and Nestlé.

Tracking companies The Humane Society has been tracking hundreds of compa- nies in the US to ensure they keep their consumer promises. Of the 58 firms most recently scrutinised, 49 companies an- nounced that their supply chains would be cage-free but nine had failed to keep their promises, according to the Hu- mane League’s Cage-Free Eggpose report. These included leading national restaurant chains Wendys, Wawa and South- ern. David Coman-Hidy, Humane League president, said: “Customers and shareholders alike deserve to know how companies are making good on their commitments to reduce the animal cruelty in their supply chains – and to comply with the growing list of state laws that ban the sale of battery- cage eggs.” There is growing pressure on the egg industry not in the form of national legislation – which might be expected in

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European countries – but through state laws. At the end of this year, producing ‘cage-free’ will soon be mandated by law for companies that sell eggs in California, Oregon, Rhode Is- land, Washington and Michigan. Other states have also intro- duced legislation. In Colorado, cage free or more extensive housing has to be introduced on farm by 1 January 2024, while in Arizona cage free requirements by 31 December 2024 are being introduced.

Cage housing decreased Industry body United Egg Producers says the number of hens housed in conventional cage environments is decreasing as producers, retailers and food manufacturers transition to cage-free eggs. In 2019, nearly a quarter (24%) of all hens were in cage-free production or almost 80 million birds, in- cluding the organic sector, which makes up around 6% of the overall total. That is a substantial rise in recent years – up from just 4% in 2010 and 12% in 2016. But according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Ser- vice, approximately 64% of US hens must be in cage free pro- duction by 2026 to meet projected consumer demand. Beth Anne Hendrickson, Humane League corporate relations manager, said that after years of campaigning, real change on the ground was taking place: “I think we’re seeing exciting progress; significant momentum across the industry away from the caged system.” Ms Hendrickson rejected the notion that Humane League was putting undue pressure on the egg sector, saying the organisation was just ensuring that compa- nies kept their commitments to customers and shareholders: “All we ask is that companies are transparent about their


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