Tag Archives: hens

Grocer pledges to sell eggs from cage-free hens

SUPERVALU, one of the nation’s largest supermarket chains, recently pledged to ensure 100 percent of the eggs it sells come from cage-free hens by 2025.

“Our decision to move toward selling only cage-free eggs reflects our ongoing commitment to improving animal welfare practices across the industry,” said Mark Van Buskirk, SUPERVALU’s executive vice president for merchandising, marketing and retail. “Because there is currently a limited supply of cage-free eggs, the transition will take time.”

The Minnesota-based grocer operates about 3,400 stores, including Cub Foods and Save-A-Lot. The company is the latest to commit to ending the practice of confining hens to battery cages so tightly that the birds can’t spread their wings.

“SUPERVALU’s policy is going to improve life for millions of animals,” said Josh Balk, a senior policy director at The Humane Society of the United States. “We appreciate the company’s work with us and urge the few remaining top grocers lacking cage-free commitments to join the rest of their industry in getting chickens out of cages.

SUPERVALU could phase in the new policy more quickly, depending on available supply, affordability and demand. “We will continue to work with our suppliers to move as quickly as possible toward a sustainable, 100 percent cage-free egg supply chain,” Buskirk said.

Other companies committed to the cage-free movement include:

  • Retailers: Ahold, Albertson’s Co., Aldi, Bashas’, BJ’s Wholesale, Costco, CVS, Delhaize, Kroger, Loblaw, Metro, Raley’s, Sobey’s, Sprouts, States Bros., Target, The Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Wawa, Weis Markets and Whole Foods.
  • Restaurants: Au Bon Pain, Bloomin’ Brands, Bob Evans, Boston Pizza, Burger King, Caribou Coffee, Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s, Cheesecake Factory, Chick-fil-A, Cracker Barrel, Darden, Denny’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Einstein Brothers, Golden Corral, IHOP, Jack in the Box, Qdoba, Krystal, Le Pain Quotidien, McDonald’s, MTY Group, Noodles & Co., P.F. Chang’s, Panera Bread, Quiznos, Red Robin, Ruby Tuesday, Shake Shack, Shoney’s, Sonic, Starbucks, Subway, T.G.I. Friday’s, Taco Bell, Taco John’s, The Second Cup, Wendy’s and White Castle.
  • Egg producers: Gemperle Farms, Hickman’s, Michael Foods, Rembrandt Foods, Rose Acre .
  • Food manufacturers: Barilla, Campbell Soup, ConAgra Foods, Flowers Foods, General Mills, Grupo Bimbo, Hood, Kellogg’s, Kraft, Heinz, Mars Inc., Mondelez, PepsiCo, Nestle, Schwan’s and Unilever.
  • Hospitality industry: Carnival Corp., Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Virgin America.

Just days before SUPERVALU’s announcement, PepsiCo committed to using 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2020 in North America and 2025 globally.

“Being the world’s second largest food manufacturer, PepsiCo’s initiative to exclusively commit to cage-free eggs by 2025 speaks strongly toward this becoming a global industry standard,” said David Coman-Hidy, executive director of The Humane League, a grassroots group dedicated to ending the caging of hens in the egg industry.

Animal rights advocates emphasized that cage-free is an improvement for hens, but it does not mean “cruelty free.”

Battery cage vs. cage-free

The vast majority of egg-laying hens in the United States are confined to battery cages, according to The Humane Society of the United States. On average, each caged laying hen is afforded 67 square inches of space — less space than a sheet of letter-sized paper. These hens cannot spread their wings and are among the most intensively confined animals in agribusiness.

The HSUS says cage-free hens are able to walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests. Most cage-free hens live in flocks that can consist of many thousands of hens that never go outside. The majority of cage-free hens live on farms that are third-party audited by certification programs that mandate perching and dust-bathing areas. However, caged hens also can suffer from the denial of many natural behaviors such as nesting, perching, and dust-bathing.

Also, both battery-caged and cage-free hens come from hatcheries that typically kill male chicks. Both battery-caged and cage-free hens can have part of their beaks burned off. And the hens in both systems are typically slaughtered at less than 2 years old.

“While cage-free does not necessarily mean cruelty-free, cage-free hens generally have significantly better lives than those confined in battery cages,” the HSUS says. “The ability to lay their eggs in nests, run and spread their wings are tangible benefits that shouldn’t be underestimated.”

Dunkin’ Donuts sets goals for eggs from cage-free hens

Dunkin’ Donuts has set goals to eventually require all eggs to come from cage-free hens and also require that its pork suppliersnot use gestation crates.

The company said it mapped its international supply chain to best understand the feasibility of transitioning to 100 percent cage-free eggs globally and, based on the assessment, established immediate and longer-term goals.

As an immediate step, 10 percent of all eggs sourced for Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast sandwiches in the United States will be cage-free by the end of next year.

Also, Dunkin’ Donuts will source only gestation crate-free pork in the United States by 2022.

The company announcement was made in partnership with The Humane Society of the United States, which said Dunkin’ Brands is working with suppliers and the animal welfare group to update policies and reach the goals.

Christine Riley Miller, senior director of corporate social responsibility for Dunkin’ Brands, said in a media statement, “Dunkin’ Brands and our franchisee community care about the welfare of animals and their humane treatment. We set a goal to source 5 percent cage-free eggs by 2013, an accomplishment we are proud to have achieved. Now, working with our suppliers and The Humane Society of the United States, we are setting new commitments to help the egg and pork industries eliminate cages to demonstrate our responsibility to animal welfare and sustainable, ethical sourcing.”

At The Humane Society, senior food policy director Josh Balk, stated, “Dunkin’s commitment to improve the lives of farm animals is taking another positive step. This new policy is further testament that consumers and companies are aligned in shifting the egg and pork industries away from confining animals in cages.”

The Humane Society said the company’s commitment to animal welfare will be included in the its corporate social responsibility report, which will be released later this spring.

Humane Society: Hens scalded alive at Minnesota slaughter plant

An undercover investigation at a “spent” egg-laying hen slaughter plant in Butterfield, Minnesota, revealed inhumane treatment of animals and potentially illegal cruelty, according to The Humane Society of the United States.

The animal welfare group conducted the investigation at Butterfield Foods and then released video and other results of the investigation and reported possible illegal activity to authorities, followed by release to the news media on Jan. 5.

A news release said the investigation was the first undercover operation at a “spent-hen” slaughter plant in the country.

Spent hens are egg-laying birds no longer considered commercially profitable. The hens are used for cheap meat after a lifelong confinement producing eggs in “battery cages.” The meat is often so low-grade and unsafe that many battery cage facilities cannot even sell it for human consumption. Hens and other poultry are not covered by the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, even though chickens and turkeys represent nine out of 10 animals slaughtered for food in the United States.   

The HSUS, in its investigation, documented:

• Many birds each day were scalded alive, forced upside down into tanks of scorching hot water in which they drown. In just one 30-minute period, the HSUS investigator witnessed approximately 45 such animals. This possible violation of Minnesota’s anti-cruelty code has been reported to local authorities.

• Hens arrived in trucks packed so tightly they could barely move. Birds had broken bones, others were dead on arrival, and some were so covered in feces they looked black. If a truck could not be emptied by the end of a processing day, the remaining hens continued to suffer on the trucks until the next day.

• Hens were removed from crates and shackled upside down while alive and fully conscious. Removal began with workers jabbing metal hooks into the densely packed transport cages to rip hens out of the cages by their legs.

• Birds were ineffectively stunned and inhumanely killed. After being shackled, the line of upside-down birds moved through an electrified trough of water designed to stun them—though that outcome was not necessarily reached. Many hens tried to right themselves, while others were hung too high; these birds missed the water entirely and arrived to the next station—the neck cutter—fully aware.

• Sick and injured birds thrown against the wall or tossed in the trash.

“Egg-laying hens suffer tremendously, locked in cramped cages their whole lives only to then be inhumanely slaughtered when their productivity wanes,” said Paul Shapiro, HSUS vice president of farm animal protection, in a news release. “Consumers can help reduce the suffering of animals in factory farms by eating less chicken, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture can help poultry by requiring slaughter plants to switch to higher-welfare systems such as controlled atmosphere killing.”

The HSUS has information to support the claim that some major egg producers in Minnesota do not even meet the voluntary space allotment standard established by the United Egg Producers, the national trade association of the egg industry. That voluntary standard, widely considered to be inhumane because it immobilizes birds, may cover about 75 percent of laying hens in cage confinement. Some major producers in Minnesota keep hens in 48- or 54-inch space allotments, which amounts to extraordinary deprivation and suffering for the birds. 

“Laying hens in Minnesota are suffering from birth to death, and every step of the process is filled with misery for so many millions of these birds,” added Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS.

On the Web…

A video from The Humane Society of the United States: