Of all the animals in factory farms, it is often said that egg-laying hens have it the worst. These hens are cramped into battery cages and confined to such little space that they can’t even spread their wings. While cage-free hens still have the ends of their beaks cut off and are not usually able to access the outdoors (and their male chicks are still discarded alive), these hens have twice as much space, allowing them to walk, spread their wings, and lay their eggs in nests.
That is why it is a significant step forward that Kraft Foods has committed to switching one million eggs within its supply chain to cage-free eggs in 2011.
“Kraft Foods’ decision coincides with the national movement away from using cruel and inhumane cages to confine laying hens,” said Josh Balk, corporate outreach director of The Humane Society of the United States’ factory farming campaign, which encouraged Kraft to make this effort through a series of discussions. “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.”
Steve Yucknut, Vice President of Sustainability at Kraft Foods, stated, “We recognize that animal welfare is an issue that resonates with customers, and we’re taking this step to address their concerns.”
In a similar success, St. Vincent Hospital of Green Bay, Wisconsin, has also shifted to cage-free eggs.
“The Humane Society of the United States applauds St. Vincent Hospital for its switch to cage-free eggs and hopes more hospitals will follow its lead,” said Kristie Middleton, corporate outreach manager for The HSUS' factory farming campaign. “St. Vincent Hospital should be commended for improving the welfare of animals and food safety in its supply chain.”
Mickey Lemin, St. Vincent Hospital’s cafeteria supervisor, said, “[We take] our responsibility of being a good steward seriously, which is why we switched to cage-free eggs. [This transition] demonstrates our commitment to safer food and more humane treatment of animals.”
The recent recall of half a billion eggs underlined the food safety problems associated with battery cages. In fact, all 10 studies published in the last five years comparing Salmonella rates in cage and cage-free operations found increased Salmonella rates in cage operations.
More than two dozen U.S. hospitals and hospital systems have switched to cage-free eggs in recent years. Like Kraft, major food manufacturers Otis Spunkmeyer, Unilever, and Sara Lee are also switching millions of eggs in their products to cage-free. Restaurant chains such as Subway, Burger King, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Sonic, Quiznos, Hardee’s, Red Robin, Golden Corral, Sonic, and Carl's Jr. use cage-free eggs, as do Wal-Mart and Costco’s private labels. Hellmann’s mayonnaise recently announced that it will convert all 350 million eggs it uses each year to cage-free.
Michigan and California have passed laws to outlaw cage confinement of hens, and Ohio’s governor announced his support for a moratorium on the construction of any new cage layer facilities. Additionally, California recently enacted a law requiring that all whole eggs sold statewide be cage-free by 2015.
Related story: HSUS releases undercover video of investigation into Cal-Maine egg farm
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