When I became president and CEO of The HSUS just short of a dozen years ago, not a single major food retailer was selling only cage-free eggs. In fact, I was writing letters to companies merely asking for cage-free offerings, for the small percentage of consumers who might choose them.
We’ve come a long way in 12 years, though, and now it’s hard to find a company that hasn’t made a commitment to sell only cage-free eggs.
Today, SUPERVALU, one of the country’s largest supermarket chains, announced that it will begin sourcing 100 percent of the eggs it sells nationwide from cage-free chickens — the latest in a string of commitments from top grocers who are working with The HSUS to help end the cruel practice of confining hens in cages so tightly that they can’t even spread their wings.
SUPERVALU has 3,400 stores and annual sales of approximately $18 billion. In addition to the SUPERVALU brand, the company owns other banners, including Save-A-Lot, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbachers, Shop’N Save, and Shoppers.
Since my last update, there have been other big names switching in the same sector. Every top Canadian retailer—including Walmart Canada, Metro, and Loblaw—announced they’re going 100 percent cage-free. ALDI US is also going 100 percent cage-free. The company has 1,500 locations in 32 states and is one of the top grocers in the country. ALDI first went cage-free in its home country of Germany and is now extending its policy to the United States. The Fresh Market, Raley’s, Sprouts, and Bashas — with more than 700 locations combined — have also declared they’re going cage-free. Among restaurants, Shoney’s, a chain with about 250 locations, is now going cage-free.
These changes are first felt in the production sector, and we’re seeing a corresponding set of announcements from egg farmers that they are moving away from battery cages. Gemperle Farms, a major egg producer with nearly five million hens, recently announced a shift to 100 percent cage-free-egg production. JS West, formerly the lead proponent for enriched cages, now says it’s abandoning those cages and going 100 percent cage-free.
Recently, an Egg Industry magazine editorial conceded that restaurant chains, food service companies, and food manufacturers are all going cage-free and implored the grocery sector to hold out. The editorial writer didn’t realize that there can be no hold-outs among major food corporations when the vast majority of Americans want change for the better on this issue. Any company that holds the line in favor of cruelty courts major reputational risks. Within the last few months, nearly all top grocers in the United States have pledged cage-free policies.
The grocery store chains were the last to come on board, but they’ve done so in spades in recent weeks. That’s yet another indicator that animal welfare has arrived in the C-Suite of America’s biggest corporations and that animal welfare applies to farm animals as well. Getting hens out of cages has become the new normal.