Just this Friday, ConAgra Foods held its annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) seized the opportunity to encourage the $12 billion industry giant to switch to cage-free eggs in its supply chain.
At first glance, the shareholder relationship between the HSUS and ConAgra may seem, at best, a bit unexpected. But the animal protection organization purchased the stock as part of its continuing efforts to encourage the company to move away from eggs that come from hens confined in battery cages. The HSUS strongly opposes the use of such cages, as they allow each bird less space than a sheet of paper on which to live for the duration of her life, and are so small that the birds cannot even spread their wings.
“Hens used for ConAgra’s products are crammed into cages so small, they’re virtually immobilized for their entire lives,” stated Josh Balk, outreach director for The HSUS’ factory farming campaign. “We hope ConAgra will follow the lead of the dozens of other major food companies that have started switching to cage-free eggs.”
Many well-known food companies have already made the switch, either because of the inhumaneness of battery cages or because The New York Times recently dubbed cage-free eggs the food industry’s “latest have-to-have-it product.”
"Sara Lee, Hellman's mayonnaise, Pepperidge Farm, and dozens of restaurant chains—including Burger King, Denny's, Carl's Jr., Hardee's, Sonic, Arby’s, Golden Corral, Quiznos and Subway—have begun converting to cage-free eggs. Compass Group, the world’s largest food service provider, has switched roughly 100 million eggs to cage-free. And supermarket chains including Wal-mart, Costco, and Safeway have all increased their sales of cage-free eggs."
While it is true that cage-free does not always mean entirely cruelty free (as cage-free hens may not be able to go outside and, like caged hens, may have parts of their beaks cut off) the measure would still be a step in the right direction in terms of decreasing cruelty in the industry. The hens would at least be able to "walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests—all behaviors permanently denied to hens crammed into battery cages."
Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/asten