For years, we at the Humane Society family of organizations have waged campaigns—through the boardroom to the ballot box—to eliminate the abusive practices of locking egg-laying hens in cages and mother pigs in gestation crates, practices that cause immense suffering for a staggering number of animals in agriculture. And we’ve made great progress. In fact, our high-profile legislative victories, such as California’s Proposition 12 and Massachusetts’ Question 3, have received a lot of media attention recently, with industrial farmers’ trade groups failing to strike down Proposition 12 in three separate lawsuits.
A necessary and core component to abolishing cages is also our success moving dozens of major food companies to publicly commit that they’ll eliminate them from their supply chains over time. But making a promise and keeping a promise are two very different things. That’s why today, we’re so focused on holding companies accountable to their pledges.
And our efforts are paying off. In just the last three months, major corporations have been accelerating their progress away from some of the cruelest practices in agribusiness.
- Denny’s recently announced a glidepath for reaching its 100% cage-free goal, through which the diner chain will switch to 30% cage-free eggs next year, 40% by 2023 and 20% every year thereafter until 100% of the hens laying eggs for its omelets and scrambles are freed from their cages. This means that not only is Denny’s now offering some assurance that it’ll keep its promise to reach 100% cage-free eggs by 2026, but also that more and more hens will be freed from cages in the lead-up to that day.
- Dine Brands (owner of IHOP and Applebee’s) announced a similar glidepath laying out how it too will increase its cage-free egg usage year-over-year until it reaches 100%.
- Yum! Brands (owner of KFC and Pizza Hut) did the same.
- McDonald’s announced that in the U.S. roughly 60% of its eggs are now cage-free (amounting to well over a billon fewer eggs coming from caged hens).
- Royal Caribbean Group announced that it too has developed glidepaths—not only for phasing-up to 100% cage-free eggs, but also for reaching 100% gestation crate-free pork and 100% GAP-certified chicken.
- Panera Bread announced that it has now completed its transition to 100% cage-free eggs for all of its primary egg ingredients and is now accelerating the transition for its other products that use eggs (like sauces and dressings).
- Conagra Brands announced that it too is accelerating its cage-free transition, and will reach 100% a full year ahead of schedule.
- Compass Group (the world’s largest foodservice company) announced that it has reached 100% cage-free eggs for all its U.S. locations.
- Krispy Kreme Doughnuts has announced that it is on pace to convert 75% of its global system and 100% of U.S. Branded Sweet Treat products to cage-free by the end of this year.
- RBI (owner of Burger King, Popeye’s, and Tim Hortons) announced that by next year, 100% of its pork in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand will come from supply systems that have at least reduced the amount of time mother pigs spend in gestation crates (as a step toward the company’s goal of fully eliminating these crates).
This is the exact type of progress we need for farm animals—progress where companies are actually switching more and more products over to cage-free, rather than simply making promises to do so at some later date. These welcome commitments also serve as a strong foundation on which to build in other markets where Humane Society International is working closely with food companies and their international affiliates to promote the adoption and implementation of similar policies.
That said, as positive as these developments are, there is much more to be done. Of particular concern right now are the many commitments companies have made which don’t seem to be moving forward. For example:
- Cracker Barrel pledged to switch to 100% cage-free eggs but has not shown any progress toward that end. The company also seems to have done away with its promise to eliminate gestation crates from its pork supply.
- Last year, Starbucks promised to release a timeline for eliminating gestation crates (after claiming for six years it was working toward that goal) but still has yet to do so.
- Some grocery retailers—like Giant Eagle, Kroger and Albertsons—seem to lack any kind of tangible plans for keeping their cage-free egg promises.
- Dine Brands—while making progress on its cage-free promise—has unfortunately done away with its pledge to eliminate gestation crates.
- Brinker International (owner of Chili’s) has not shown any progress whatsoever toward keeping its promises about eliminating gestation crates and switching to 100% cage-free eggs.
Just as the list of companies that are making progress is long and robust, unfortunately, so too is the list of companies that are not. That’s why the Humane Society family of organizations is committed to both praising companies that are already on the road to eliminating cages while pushing others to get on the road. We owe that to you—our members and supporters—and to the animals.
Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.