"Animal welfare is a fundamental part of our responsible retailing program," said Marissa Nelson, senior vice president of responsible retailing and healthy living, Ahold USA.
"We believe that cage-free environments are a more humane way to treat hens, and we have committed to have all of our private label shell eggs 100% cage-free, subject to available supply."
Ahold Group—the company behind grocery stores Stop & Shop, Giant Food of Landover, Giant Food Stores of Carlisle, Martin’s, and Peapod—will join a selection of other food giants, including foodservice company Sodexo and manufacturers Snyder’s-Lance and Kraft, to pledge going cage-free.
Suppliers may scramble to meet demand
The American Humane Association recognized the efforts of food service providers and CPG manufacturers last fall for their attempts to meet the increasing demand for humanely produced animal products.
Companies such as Kellogg Co., McDonald’s Corp., and Taco Bell were among those that were lauded at the event. But President of happy egg co. David Wagstaff told FoodNavigator-USA that a cage-free situation is not as natural as “true free range,” as it gives hens 21.8 square feet of space and access to the outdoors, as opposed to cage-free hens that are still confined indoors.
A survey conducted by the American Humane Association found that 95% of consumers are very concerned about animal welfare, up from 89% in 2013.
“Humanely raised food products are becoming more and more what is commanded and what is being expected and—consumers are driving this trend,” Robin Granzert, the association’s CEO, told FoodNavigator-USA in an interview in December.
However, the trend has some implications.
As food companies race to promote their adoption of humane practices in animal products, some experts are concerned about potential shortages.
Wagstaff predicts suppliers may struggle to keep up with demand, leaving not much time for producers to change their practices and raise more cage-free hens, leading to temporary supply shortages.
“The US egg industry remains very stuck in a commodity, cheap food mindset with practices that can and often do lead to food scares and poor quality production and poor quality product,” he said in a previous interview.
Though winds are changing, he cautioned that “[supppliers] are not changing as quick as their customers, and if that happens, you always are going to end up with an industry that is trying to play catch up.”
The article originally reported Ahold USA's pledge to go 100% cage free for its private label eggs. Not long after publication, Ahold Group USA announced that "following dialogue with The Humane League, Ahold USA updated its partial cagefree egg announcement to include all companypurchased eggs for its more than 700 locations by 2022. The move makes Ahold the first major supermarket to produce a 100% cagefree egg policy. Ahold is the fourth largest supermarket in the country and operates under banners such as Stop & Shop and Giant."