Balk says the main reasons companies are switching to cage-free eggs are because of consumer sentiment towards the idea of farm animals being confined in cages so small they can barely move and companies do not want to be linked to animal cruelty.
“Companies want to shift their brands away from production practices that are out of step with the American sensibilities about how animals should be treated,” comments Balk.
Among the companies that have switched is fast food restaurant Wendy’s, recently announcing that by 2020 it will transition to 100 percent cage-free eggs in its U.S. and Canadian locations. “Animal welfare is a core part of our company’s role as a responsible corporate citizen,” says Liliana Esposito, Wendy’s chief communications officer. “We will continue to incorporate evolving best practices in the areas of animal handling and welfare into our supply chain requirements.”
Supermarkets like Trader Joe’s are also going cage-free. The company made a change in 2005 to have all Trader Joe’s brand eggs come from only cage-free hens. Since then, it has experienced a steady increase in sales of cage-free eggs. One of the company goals is to have all the eggs it sells in Western states (California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado) come from cage-free suppliers by 2020.
An Educated Consumer Knows Best
Education is key to ensuring consumers know what type of egg they want. Auburn University Food Systems Institute (AUFSI) conducts interdisciplinary research dedicated to improving the nation’s food system.
Patricia A. Curtis, PhD, professor and director at AUFSI, says the organization’s programs help provide information and training to “government regulators, industry, and entrepreneurs interested in starting a food business.” In addition, AUFSI also promotes teaching consumers in the general public.
Dr. Curtis believes it’s up to the consumer to decide if cage-free eggs are for them.
“We want to educate the consumers, help them understand the differences of cage and cage-free and make an educated decision on the type of egg they want,” she says.
Aquije is an editorial intern for Wiley U.S. B2B editorial division.