by Brian Collett
Three large US grocery companies are to switch to cage-free eggs by 2025.
Their decisions follow similar recent announcements from about 100 retailers, restaurants, manufacturers and service companies, apparently aimed at boosting reputations and business.
Certainly, the changes are a reply to consumer pressure.
Kroger, the biggest US grocery store chain, with more than 3,400 shops and convenience stores under various banners, including Harris Teeter and Ralph’s, says its “customer base has been moving to cage-free at an increasing rate”.
Albertsons, with more than 2,200 stores, whose brand names include Safeway and Vons, says the decision results from its animal welfare commitment and customers’ buying habits.
Delhaize America, which runs more than 1,200 stores, attributes the switch partly to “customer demand”.
Jaya Bhumitra, corporate outreach director at the anti-farm cruelty charity Mercy for Animals, said: “Now, more than ever, consumers are concerned about animal welfare on factory farms, and the public strongly opposes cramming animals into cages so small that they can barely move their limbs, walk around or engage in other natural behaviours.
“At a minimum, consumers demand that animals not be tortured in the process of meat, milk and egg production.”
Aaron Ross, campaigns director at The Humane League, another prominent animal charity, observed: “Every day more and more consumers are showing they do not support caging hens, and as a result food companies are responding.”
Food policy director Josh Balk expected that by this month the league would be working with “virtually all the top grocers to go 100% cage-free with a timeline”.
In the eating-out sector, DineEquity, the largest casual dining company in the US, has announced that all eggs in its restaurants will be cage-free by 2025.
This decision too is mainly customer-driven. Patrick Lenow, communications and public affairs vice-president of DineEquity, parent company of IHOP and Applebees, explained: “As part of our ongoing commitment to animal welfare, we determined it was time to expand our commitment to cage-free primarily because of consumer expectations.”
Prediction from Balk: “There should be very few battery cages left in this country within a decade. The long history of this cruel and obscene production practice is coming to an end.”