Recently, we recognized Barilla, the world’s largest pasta maker, and TOKS, one of Mexico’s most popular fast casual restaurants, with the Henry Spira Corporate Progress Awards. These companies both made the decision to source their eggs exclusively from cage-free suppliers, and then embraced that decision wholeheartedly. Humane Society International secured the original commitments and supported the companies’ transition.
Barilla was recognized for meeting its cage-free goal a year earlier than initially planned. TOKS built a supply chain that didn’t exist, from the village on up, by working with rural women to develop small cage-free farms that have uplifted the economic fortunes of entire communities. TOKS’ chefs visited the farms and became enthusiastic champions for the company’s cage-free sourcing program.
Barilla and TOKS are among more than 300 companies around the world that have pledged to require better welfare for laying hens in recent years. The Humane Society of the United States and HSI have secured many of these commitments, working with well- known companies like Unilever, maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, that are leading the cage-free revolution now under way around the world.
In the United States, McDonald’s recently announced that 43% of the eggs it uses in the United States are now cage-free; Jack in the Box just hit 77%. Grupo AB Brasil, one of the biggest egg processors in South America, just made a major cage-free pledge in consultation with HSI.
We’ve also led the passage of bans on cages for hens in multiple U.S. states. So far, in the United States, the egg industry has transitioned from 3% cage-free eggs just 13 years ago to nearly 30% today.
This is tremendous progress that will ultimately benefit billions of animals around the world, and it is long overdue. Hens are sentient, intelligent and sociable. Scientific studies show that they can count, anticipate the future, and teach their chicks. It is terrible that the vast majority of hens around the world are confined to cages so small they cannot even spread their wings. They also can’t walk on solid ground, nor nest, dust bathe, perch or forage. While cage-free facilities are far from perfect, they greatly improve the birds’ well-being by allowing them to exhibit crucial natural behavior such as walking and fully extending their wings.
Cage-free policies are not the only measure being implemented by companies to work towards a more humane food system. Around the world, food industry leaders are increasing plant-based offerings, whether by creating new, innovative plant-based products such as plant-based eggs and mayonnaise, or by using egg alternatives in existing products to give hens a break.
Consumers are also seeking cage-free eggs and plant-based alternatives as awareness about cruel and inhumane practices in food production grows. Smart corporations that are already embracing compassionate change realize that the costs of winning back consumer and investor trust far outweigh the costs of transitioning to cage-free eggs.