Total bans are already in the pipeline in the states of California and Michigan, where laws have been passed to outlaw such confinement of hens. California has also passed a law to make the sale of whole eggs from battery-caged hens illegal by 2015. And in Ohio, the state governor has said he supports a moratorium on the building of any new battery-caged hen facilities.
Barilla’s move was applauded by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) which said it hopes other food manufacturers will follow suit.
Corporate outreach director of the HSUS’s factory farming campaign Matthew Prescott said: “Barilla’s new animal welfare policy will spare countless hens from life crammed inside tiny cages.”
Battery cages are still the most common form of egg production in the United States, where the United Egg Producers’ current recommendation for cage size is 67 to 86 square inches per bird. The practice has come in for criticism from animal welfare groups, as hens are unable to spread their wings in such confined space.
Cage-free hens do not necessarily have access to outside space, but they are able to walk and spread their wings, and systems are third-party certified to ensure that animals have access to perching and dust-bathing facilities.
Barilla wrote in a letter to the HSUS: “Product quality, safety, nutrition and sustainability are key pillars for our company. To this end, Barilla’s policy on supply chain management takes into consideration not only health and wellbeing of people, but also the health and wellbeing of animals."