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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Jack in the Box and General Mills Commit to Sourcing Cage-Free Eggs


There will be more hens in the U.S. that can escape being confined in spaces so small they can’t flap their wings. Two companies have recently committed to sourcing cage-free eggs. And as Josh Balk, director of food policy at the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), told TriplePundit: “This is certainly good news.”

One of those companies is the fast food chain Jack in the Box which plans to have its entire egg supply cage-free by 2025, according to its animal welfare report. The company has almost 3,000 restaurants in the U.S. and also owns Qdoba Mexican Eats, which has almost 700 restaurants. 

“In response to evolving research on cage-free housing environments, and to consumers’ changing expectations and preferences, we have informed our egg suppliers of our expectation that they transition the majority of our egg supply to cage-free by 2020, and to fully transition to cage-free eggs by 2025,” the recently released report states. 

“While, of course, five to 10 years is a long time for chickens to remain in cages, this is still great progress,” wrote Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) in a blog post. “And while cage-free, of course, does not  solve all of the animal welfare problems in egg production, Jack in the Box’s announcement represents a major step forward.”
Pacelle noted that 2015 “is the year that the nation decided to shed battery cages in favor of cage-free production.” He cited Taco Bell’s recent announcement that 100 percent of its 6,000 restaurants will use only cage-free eggs by Dec. 16.

General Mills is the second company to commit to sourcing cage-free eggs. In a recently updated animal welfare policy, the company committed to sourcing 100 percent cage-free eggs for all of its U.S. operations by 2025. “Eggs are an important ingredient in many of our products, and we strive to ensure that the hens laying these eggs are treated humanely,” the policy stated. 

General Mills noted in its policy that Häagen-Dazs, its largest international business, already sources only cage-free eggs for all of the ice cream produced in Europe. 

Both commitments “further demonstrate that these systems have no place in our country,” Balk said. He added that the two commitments are “going to affect many egg-laying hens.”

Why are companies embracing animal welfare?

Why are more and more companies creating animal welfare policies? One of the main reasons is because of consumers. A 2010 study by Context Marketing found that 69 percent of those polled said they are “willing to pay more for food produced to higher ethical standards.” Over 90 percent identified three main qualities they associate with ethical standards and one of them was “treats farm animals humanely.”

More recent surveys found similar results. A survey conducted in August 2015 by the Hartman Group found that 44 percent of those polled said they wanted to know more about how food companies treat the animals used in their products. Almost half (47 percent) said they support companies that avoid inhumane treatment of animals, a six-point increase from a similar survey in 2013. Sixty-five percent said they wanted animals raised in as natural an environment as possible.

Here are results from other surveys:

  • Almost 95 percent of those polled by American Humane in 2014 said they were “very concerned” about the welfare of farm animals.

  • 69 percent of respondents to a 2014 survey by ORC International said they prioritize animal welfare as a significant factor in deciding what foods to buy.

  • A survey of West Coast consumers, commissioned by Foster Farms, found that 49 percent “completely agreed” that they are more concerned about animal welfare and how animals are raised for food than they were five years ago. And 74 percent “completely agree” that they would like more large producers to raise animals for food in a humane way.
Back in 2008, California voters passed a ballot proposition commonly known as Prop 2 that required egg producers to house hens in systems that allow them to stand up and fully move their wings. The law went into effect on Jan. 1. Prop 2 “was the first indication from society that consumers think confining animals is cruel,” Balk said. And now across the U.S. “we’re starting to see a rising sentiment against it,” he added.

Consumers are becoming even more informed now. Balk attributes that to two things: media attention and social media. There have been numerous articles about animal welfare in general and the cages that house far too many hens in the U.S. There have also been undercover investigations. Before social media, organizations like HSUS would have to send out videos to news organizations and activists. Now, social media allows people anywhere to post videos from undercover operations and millions can see it. “It was impossible to do that before social media,” Balk said.

Image credit: Flickr/Matt MacGillivray

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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