More Companies Pledge Cage-Free Eggs in Supply Chain

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Subway is the latest fast food company to pledge to using only cage-free eggs in the future. The restaurant chain announced Dec. 28 all 30,000 of its North American locations would serve cage-free eggs by 2025.

The news comes just as 2015 draws to an close. The year saw a number of food companies making commitments to more sustainable supply chains, which includes shifts to cage-free eggs. McDonald’s and General Mills were two major companies that made such commitments earlier in the year. Other companies included Taco Bell, Panera, Starbucks and Kellogg's.

More recently, Nestle announced its move to using cage-free eggs for all its food products by 2020. Costco, too, said it would be working with its suppliers to move to cage-free eggs. In a statement on its website, Costco said it plans to sell more than 1 billion cage-free eggs in 2016. However, moving toward a completely cage-free egg supply would take time since more than 90% of its eggs come from caged hens, Costco said.

“Costco is committed to going cage‐free for its egg procurement,” the company said on its website. “We are working with our suppliers toward a complete and sustainable transition to a cage‐free supply chain.”

What Are Cage-Free Eggs?

Cage-free hens are those that live outside a cage but not necessarily outdoors. They may reside in windowless barns or aviaries. Cage-free is different than free-range eggs, which come from hens that have access to the outdoors. Organic eggs, too, are generally believed to be from hens that can go outside. However, a new report from the Cornucopia Institute, “Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture,” states that while many organic producers follow best practices and respect the principles of organic farming, some still use “organic” only as a marketing tactic.

“For others, especially large-scale producers, ‘organic’ appears to be nothing more than a profitable marketing term to apply to the agro-industrial production model, simply substituting organic feed for conventional and eliminating prohibited synthetic inputs, such as pesticides and antibiotics,” the report stated.

The report examined four production models being practiced in the organic egg industry, which includes the “industrial model” that often means the hens have zero access to the outdoors as well as the “fixed housing” model that includes minimal outdoor access. The report found most  industrial-scale organic egg producers store tens of thousands of hens in henhouses and offer only minimal outdoor spaces.

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