Target Corporation—one of the country’s largest retailers—has announced it is dismantling cages from its egg supply by 2025.
On Monday, ConAgra Foods—maker of Egg Beaters and other popular food product brands—announced it too is switching to 100 percent cage-free eggs. Working with such big-name companies on this commitment prompts me to reflect further on the swift and startling progress in our campaign to end the use of the battery cage in American agriculture.
During 2015’s final four months, we worked with 20 major companies to announce 100 percent cage-free egg policies. We’re just three weeks into 2016 and already nearly half that number of companies have announced cage-free shifts. We’ve partnered with ConAgra, Denny’s (which uses half a billion eggs annually), Wendy’s, Quiznos, and Barilla. Just last Friday alone—all in one single day—we announced that Campbell Soup, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Mondelez (the $30 billion snack food giant) added themselves to the list.
The momentum is unstoppable, triggered by a major cage-free announcement from McDonald’s in September. And while we understand that cage-free doesn’t necessarily equate to cruelty-free it’s a dramatic improvement over being immobilized in a cage. Cage-free hens, even in indoor barns, have at least double the amount of space per bird as caged hens, and often much more space than that. In addition, they have the ability to walk, spread their wings, perch, lay their eggs in a nesting area, and more.
The brands making the switch to cage-free are mainstream brands, based in states across the country, with ConAgra in Nebraska, Denny’s in South Carolina, Target and General Mills in Minnesota, and Dunkin’ Donuts in Massachusetts, where we’ve launched an ambitious 2016 ballot initiative to end extreme confinement agriculture.
In a nation riven with partisan divisions, improving farm animals’ often-miserable lives has emerged as a universal value. This is an enormously consequential shift in food and agriculture, and it is a clear signal to everyone concerned that gestation crates and battery cages are soon to be agricultural artifacts like the reaper and the threshing machine.
We’ll look back on the use of these devices, and wonder how they could have lasted so long, and how good people could have tolerated their use. Just as no credible person defends dogfighting or cockfighting anymore, few in the future will defend immobilizing farm animals in cages barely larger than their bodies.
We’ll stay the course, knowing that these changes are all a necessary part of our moral and economic progress.