More hens in North America will have more space to be chickens and practice normal chicken behavior. Two more companies recently announced they will transition their egg supply chains to cage-free systems and away from cruel confinement systems.
Wendy’s is one of those companies. The third largest quick-service hamburger company will transition to 100 percent cage-free eggs in its U.S. and Canadian locations by 2020. It’s a commitment that will affect over 400 Wendy’s restaurants in the U.S. and Canada that serve breakfast.
Wendy’s started its animal welfare program 15 years ago when it began working with animal welfare experts to audit its suppliers’ animal handling practices. It established its Animal Welfare Council in 2001 and an animal welfare program that covered all of its meat suppliers. The company has also committed to phasing out the use of sow gestation stalls from its pork supply chain by 2022 as part of its animal welfare program.
“We feel moving to cage-free eggs is the right direction for Wendy’s, but it’s important to note that we are mindful of the amount of energy it takes to make this type of change within the supply chain and specifically the responsibility it puts on our valued suppliers,” Wendy’s spokesperson Bry Roth told TriplePundit. “We’re committed to working with them on a phased implementation that ensures we’re delivering a quality product for our customers.”
“Wendy’s further demonstrates that confining egg-laying chickens in cages is out of step with the major players in the food industry and American consumers,” Josh Balk, senior director of food policy for the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), told Triple Pundit.
Subway is the other company to announce its commitment to transition to cage-free systems for egg-laying hens by 2025 for its 30,000 locations across North America. The company’s egg supply chain in Europe and Australia is already cage-free. As Elizabeth Stewart, director of corporate social responsibility for the company, said in a statement: “Subway customers across Europe are served only eggs from free-range hens and in Australia are served eggs from cage-free hens.”
The U.S. is shifting away from caged systems
Most egg-laying hens in the U.S. are forced to live their lives in battery cages where they are only given 67 square inches of space. That is less than one sheet of letter-sized paper, according to HSUS. Such little amount of space leaves hens no room to spread their wings or practice normal chicken behavior like nesting, perching and dustbathing. Those are behaviors experts say are necessary for the welfare of hens.
Many egg producers are switching to cage-free systems, in part because of public opposition. Stewart pointed out in her statement that Subway is aware that consumers want to know that the “food they eat is ethically sourced.” She added that Subway’s “customers care deeply about animal welfare.”
Another reason is California’s Proposition 2, which voters passed in 2008, that requires all egg producers in the Golden State to switch to cage-free systems. The law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. Since then, a number of companies have announced they will phase out battery cages from their egg supply chains, including fast food chain McDonald’s. Other companies have announced they will expand cage-free eggs such as major egg producer Hickman Family Farms.
Clearly, the U.S. is shifting away from cruel confinement systems such as battery cages. Consumers just aren’t comfortable with eating food produced in inhumane methods any longer. Back in May, 62 percent of Americans said that animals deserve some protection, according to a Gallup poll. Only 3 percent said animals deserve no protection.
Chances are great that this year will see more companies making announcements that they are phasing out battery cages.
Photo: Grey World