Originally published 6/29/15 at PhilipLymbery.com, blog of Compassion in World Farming CEO Philip Lymbery.
Message to US food companies: Phase out cages for hens within 5 years and apply for a Good Egg Award
When a US food company announces it is ‘moving away’ from cages for hens, there is celebration amongst consumers, the media, and advocates alike. But when years slip by and little measurable progress is made, we are left to wonder the actual impact of these announcements.
Without target dates and a publicly transparent plan of action, the meaning of such an announcement remains uncertain. However, one thing remains clear. Until the task is complete, hens continue to languish in cages so small, they cannot even spread their wings or lay their eggs in a nest.
With this in mind, I wrote a letter to the CEO of Costco. Eight years ago they committed to going cage free with their eggs. Today, the majority of the hens laying eggs for Costco still remain locked up in tiny cages. Customers are starting to notice, including celebrity Ryan Gosling.
Similarly, Starbucks, Panera, Nestlé, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, Walmart and Wendy’s, have all made announcements about eggs from caged hens. However, they have not set target dates and they still sell eggs from caged hens. While it’s commendable to take a public stance, the pressure remains on these companies to step up to the plate and finish the job.
When it comes to improving the lives of farm animals in the United States, food companies hold the power. With this power comes a tremendous amount of responsibility, as well as opportunity. Since many of the most abhorrent livestock farming practices, such as keeping hens in barren cages, has yet to be made illegal under US Federal law, it is up to the food companies, who are in the driver’s seat of our food system, to take a stand against these inhumane practices. And some already have.
Whole Foods Market and Pret a Manger are two examples of companies that have taken a firm stand against cages in the US. Both have just been awarded with Good Egg Awards at our Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards Ceremony in Milan for their written policies which formally prohibit the sourcing of eggs from hens that were kept in cages. These companies recognize that the practice of keeping hens in cages unacceptable and out of sync with their customer’s values, and what values on which their companies were built.
Other companies in the US have taken a first step and have announced that they are moving away from cages. For example, Burger King has reportedly set a goal of being 100% cage-free for eggs by 2017. The public and their customers trust that they will hold true to this commitment and deliver meaningful policy change that will positively impact the animals in their supply chain.
With that in mind, we invite companies in the US to apply for our Good Egg Award. We recognize companies who already have achieved going 100% cage free for eggs, but we also award companies who set a target date to be 100% cage-free within 5 years. Importantly, whether you are currently cage-free, or have committed to get there, your cage-free must be written into your sourcing policy. There is a tremendous opportunity to show that you are taking animal welfare seriously, and that you are ready to deliver on these noble announcements.
At Compassion, we have always stressed the importance of transparency within our food system. It is the only way to show your customers and other stakeholders that you are actively managing and reporting on business issues such as farm animal welfare. By applying for a Good Egg Award, you are taking the next vital step and are sending a clear message to your customers and to the market at large that your commitments are indeed sincere, and that you are ready to be held accountable.