Kraft Foods has said it intends to source one million eggs from cage-free hens next year following discussions with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) about the treatment of animals in its supply chain.
The move is in line with an increasing trend of rejecting eggs from battery-caged hens across the US, with total bans 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.
Vice president of sustainability at Kraft Foods Steve Yucknut said: “We recognize that animal welfare is an issue that resonates with customers, and we’re taking this step to address their concerns.”
Corporate outreach director of the HSUS’ factory farming campaign Josh Balk said: “Kraft Foods’ decision coincides with the national movement away from using cruel and inhumane cages to confine laying hens. The company should be applauded for taking animal welfare seriously by purchasing cage-free eggs, and we hope others in the food industry follow its lead.”
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.
Other major companies to announce the phasing out of eggs from battery cages include Unilever and Sara Lee, while restaurant chains including Subway, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Quiznos, Golden Corral, Sonic and Burger King already use cage-free eggs, according to the HSUS. Wal-Mart’s and Costco’s private labels only use cage-free eggs, it said.