This is the first in a series on Cruelty Free Supply Chains.
Most egg-laying hens in the U.S. are housed in cages which are only about the size of a piece of paper. The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) calls cage laying hens “among the most intensively confined animals in agribusiness.” Hens raised in cage-free systems are allowed to walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests. Most cage-free hens live on farms, according to the HSUS, that are audited by certification programs that mandate hens have areas for normal chicken behavior, namely perching and dust-bathing.
Aramark, a global food services company, is the latest company to announce it will source all its shell eggs in the U.S. from cage-free hens. The company’s target date for going cage-free is by the end of 2014. Aramark buys about 30 million eggs a year in the U.S., so its commitment will have an impact. Presently, eggs from cage-free hens are available for Aramark’s clients, but only as an option. As the company states on its website, “For quite some time, Aramark has offered cage-free eggs to any client that wants them, and in fact, has helped many of its clients make the switch to cage-free eggs at their locations.”
Aramark also recently announced that it is committed to eliminating sow gestation crates from its U.S. pork supply chain by 2017. It is the largest food service company to make commitments to sourcing eggs from cage free hens and gestation-free pork. Both commitments were made in collaboration with the HSUS.
This commitment to source shell eggs from cage-free hens, along with our recent commitment to eliminate pork from animals bred in gestation crates, helps move our industry toward an even stronger commitment to animal welfare,” said Kathy Cacciola, Aramark’s Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability.
We appreciate ARAMARK’s commitment to improve animal welfare through sourcing practices within its supply chain,” said Josh Balk, director of corporate policy for the Humane Society of the United States. “ARAMARK is further proving that creating humane-minded policies is good for animals, consumers, and business.
Au Bon Pain, an international bakery chain, also announced its commitment this week to sourcing eggs only from cage-free hens by 2017. Currently 25 percent of its egg sandwich purchases are cage-free. The company also committed to eliminating gestation crates from its pork supply chain by 2017. The company is already sourcing all of its pork sausage from a farm that is 100 percent gestation crate-free.
A congressional bill introduced in January 2012, would create a national standard for the housing and treatment of egg-laying. Called the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, the bill, if passed, would require that the space hens are housed in increase, and would also require that they have areas that allow them to do what is normal chicken behavior. The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry in February 2012, where it languishes.
Image source: Flickr user, petercooperuk