Trader Joe’s announced last week that it will transition its entire egg supply to cage-free sources. First up are Western states: Eggs sold in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado will be 100 percent cage-free by 2020. All eggs across Trader Joe’s stores will be sourced from cage-free suppliers by 2025. But the company might meet its goals sooner.
“If market conditions allow us to accomplish these goals earlier, while still providing our customers outstanding value, we will do so,” Trader Joe’s said in a statement.
The Humane Society of the U.S. highlights the importance of Trader Joe’s announcement, mentioning in a blog post that the grocery store chain is “one of the nation’s largest grocers with nearly 500 locations.” The HSUS has long been calling for Trader Joe’s to go cage-free, beginning in 2005 when Whole Foods Market made an announcement that it would source 100 percent cage-free eggs.
The result was a “compromise where the company committed to switch all its private label eggs to cage-free,” HSUS said. And that compromise resulted in Trader Joe’s egg sales being 62 percent cage-free, which is “very far above the national average,” the group noted.
Compassion in World Farming launched a campaign a few weeks ago aimed at Trader Joe’s with a parody of Adele’s song “Hello” and a petition. The campaign likely played a big part in Trader Joe’s decision as it showed the company that its customers want cage-free eggs. “When it comes to the work we do to offer products we think fit our customers’ needs—covering a range of considerations, we continually evaluate our offerings and adjust them as warranted by sales and direct customer feedback,” the company stated.
“Trader Joe’s successfully positioned themselves years ago as a ‘natural foods’ grocer, and this recent cage-free egg announcement proves they will listen to customers’ demands to adhere to their values,” Rachel Dreskin, food business manager for Compassion in World Farming, told Triple Pundit. “Grocers provide their customers with options, but it has now been made clear for all food retailers: Consumers do not want the option of cruelty on the shelves.”
Many companies have made similar announcements to Trader Joe’s recently, including Jack in the Box, General Mills, Wendy’s and Subway. Cage-free eggs are clearly the future for companies that buy eggs. And that is good news for the American hens who no longer have to spend their lives cooped up in small cages. The majority of egg-laying hens in the U.S. are confined in battery cages with only 67 square inches of space, which is far too little for them to even spread their wings.
Dr. Jayson Lusk, professor and Willard Sparks Endowed Chair of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University studies how consumers view cage-free eggs and other cruelty-free products. “Consumers don’t know much about hen housing conditions and their presumptions are incorrect and overly optimistic,” Lusk told World Animal Protection.
According to Lusk, consumers think that only 40 to 70 percent of egg-laying hens live in cages, although it’s closer to 95 percent. And only 10 percent of North American consumers know about how hens are housed. If an additional 15 percent did know, cage-free egg sales would increase by over 20 percent, Lusk said. That would equal 1 million hens free of battery cages. But if 75 percent of consumers were aware, that would be another 8 million hens freed of those cruel cages.
Another interesting tidbit from Lusk’s research is that about half of all consumers who buy eggs reported that they would buy a different brand if they found out their grocery store sells products from animals that had to unnecessarily suffer. So clearly, Americans just aren’t down with animal cruelty, but many aren’t aware of cruel practices like the use of battery cages. With more consumer awareness, perhaps within the next decade we can have an egg supply chain in the U.S. that is completely cage-free.