Rembrandt, Nation’s Third Largest Egg Producer, Paints a Picture of a Cage-Free Future

By on October 13, 2015 with 11 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

In yet another unmistakable indicator that we are moving decisively closer to ending the intensive confinement of farm animals, the nation’s third largest egg producer this morning announced that moving forward, “cage-free egg production will become the company’s standard.” Rembrandt Foods, based in Spirit Lake, Iowa, has more than 10 million hens, and is a huge supplier of liquid eggs – a specialized sector of the egg industry that often confines birds in 48- to 54-square-inch spaces—roughly half the size of a standard size sheet of paper.

The HSUS investigated this same company in 2010, along with the number two producer in the industry, Rose Acre Foods. We didn’t find any out-of-the-norm abuses, but saw birds languishing in the overstuffed cages. This sort of extreme confinement represented about 95 percent of egg production in the United States at the time, and we faced fierce resistance from the industry in our efforts to end it.

The industry started shifting its thinking after California voters, in a landslide vote, said no to cage confinement in 2008. Since then, a steady stream of companies has moved forward with cage-free conversions, leading to last month’s declaration by McDonald’s that it would go cage-free throughout the United States and Canada.  McDonald’s sells roughly four percent of all eggs in the United States –about two billion eggs.

But today’s announcement from Rembrandt, and similar ones from Rose Acre and Arizona’s largest producer, Hickman Farms, earlier this year, which indicate they too will go cage-free, are startling and remarkable. Indeed, if these large Midwestern and Western companies – which between them produce about 10 percent of all eggs in the nation – can make these commitments, so can others.

“With the unprecedented number of top food companies announcing timelines to switch exclusively to cage-free eggs, we are uniquely positioned for the future in cage-free eggs and egg products,” said Dave Rettig, president of Rembrandt Foods. Indeed, just after the McDonald’s announcement, Starbucks announced it would source all of its eggs from cage-free operations by 2020. Burger King is doing the same, by 2017. Earlier this year, the nation’s three largest food service companies – Aramark, Compass Group, and Sodexo – all pledged to go entirely cage-free within the next five years. Other major food retailers are expected to follow, and Massachusetts voters seem poised to support a ballot initiative to end any sale of shell eggs from caged hens in the state (a petition is now circulating, with the measure expected to appear on the ballot in November 2016.)

“With a reasonable timeline, we can meet any demand, and we’re eager to move our clients into the cage-free future.” Rettig added. With this, a company like Rembrandt goes from a problem maker (severely confining millions of birds in cages) to a problem solver (supplying companies that want to do better by moving to eggs that come from cage-free hens).

Smart producers, farmers, and business leaders like Rembrandt, Rose Acre, and others, are setting aside past disagreements and clashes and moving their industry forward to do better for animals and consumers—toward a cage-free future. It’s the humane economy at work, and it’s a sight to behold.

Farm Animals

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  1. David Bernazani says:

    The writing is on the wall in clear, bold letters: any egg producer would be a complete fool to not plan to go cage-free with his own chickens.

    • Michelle Mason says:

      I just don’t understand why it takes years for them to make this change and then some never do. It’s not like they don’t have the money to do it now. Meanwhile the hens suffer and the males get ground up and die? I am a vegan and do not eat eggs but I still care about these animals – that’s the reason I’m vegan!

  2. Monica Kramer says:

    This is a massive step in the right direction. Human health and animal health are intertwined. If we raise animals for food, the least we can do is provide a comfortable environment and quality feed for them during their short lives.

  3. Sally Palmer says:

    Animals raised in a natural environment are obviously healthier than those raised under nightmarishly unhealthy and stressful conditions. Once fully educated on what horrific animal farming and slaughtering conditions to do to the animals they are consuming, the majority of people who still want to eat animal products will want animals who are naturally raised and cleanly slaughtered with as little suffering as can be achieved under the circumstances, as bitterly ironic as that sounds. With the evidence and education HSUS provides, slowly but surely we will achieve more responsible behavior on the part of both producers and consumers. We can’t eliminate all cruelty in human beings, but we can at least reduce or stop it in a large percentage of people.

  4. Joan Legg says:

    I have one question – while this is excellent news, who defines what cage-free really means? Even “free range” is not always what people expect. Here in Australia we have had numerous instances of false labelling of eggs and pork products.

  5. Bill Hulsey says:

    Cage-free eggs are a choice we have, made available by the innovators in the cage equipment industry. It is one that takes careful design to make sure the birds aren’t hurt in the open environment.
    Callous movements to “freeing” birds is generally bad for their health. IE, raising of young pullets such that they don’t know how to live in a cage-free environment has proven disastrous; un-educated flock management is worse in cage-free systems; and general hygiene of c-f systems is more a problem than cage and enriched colony. Yes, the birds are able to roam about and have full access to eating their own feces so the likelihood of salmonella recalls and flock illness are a greater concern in c-f systems.
    The systems that keep the birds from the ground and out of pecking order tussles are healthier, thus happier birds. But everyone under the sun can argue their own opinion till their face turns blue.

  6. riot says:

    une poule s appartient a elle même c est pour cela qu ont peut les appeler des martyrs .Se ne sont pas des machines a humain.animal humain devient responsable ne consommes plus d oeufs parce qu ils ne t appartiennent pas.

  7. Jose says:

    More controlled environment is always safer & more flock friendly. Less fighting, less salmonella, less death.

    Remember, animals are not human & don’t think like we do. Over the years farmers have understood happiness as healthy & productive… producing eggs is what happens when they are happy… happy means better production & more money…

    Now… tell me farmers don’t care about money & are willing to throw it away in overcrowded unhealthy, unhappy chickens.

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