How Companies are Phasing Cruelty Out of American Livestock Production

(3BL/JustMeans) There is cruelty built into the American egg production system. Most egg-laying hens in the U.S. are confined in small cages measuring about 67 inches. Called battery cages, they are smaller than a single sheet of letter-sized paper. The hens live their entire lives in the small cages, unable to spread their wings or practice other natural chicken behavior. The cages make the chickens almost immobilized, and often their feet get stuck in the metal floor or their heads between the bars, which leaves them maimed or dead.

The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) has long worked to eliminate battery cages. Their push to rid the country of the cruel cages has led to some recent successes. In 2008. Californians voted for ballot Proposition 2 which forces all egg producers in the state to eliminate battery cages. The law went into effect this year. Michigan passed a law banning battery cages, and Ohio has a moratorium on constructing new cage egg production facilities. 

States are not the only ones eliminating battery cages. Food companies are removing them from their supply chains, including Burger King, McDonald’s, Aramark, Sodexo, Compass Group and Unilever. Add two more companies to that list: TGI Friday and the Kellogg Company. Both TGI companies recently announced commitments to sourcing only cage-free eggs by a set date.

TGI Friday’s is committed to sourcing only cage-free eggs in its U.S. supply chain by 2025. The company also committed to only buying pork from suppliers with plans to end their use of sow gestation crates.
Kellogg announced its plans to source only cage-free eggs for its foods by the end of 2025. Kellogg already reduced its use of eggs from caged hens in its MorningStar Farms products by 20 million eggs since 2007.

By the end of 2016, Kellogg will switch one million more cage-free eggs within its MorningStar Farms brand. The company is also phasing out gestation crates from its pork supply chain by the end of 2025. 
Kellogg decided to phase out battery cages from its egg supply chain for two reasons, Kris Charles, Kellogg Company spokesperson, told JustMeans. The company has “always had a commitment to conducting business in a responsible manner and because consumers increasingly want foods made from ingredients that are sourced responsibly and in a humane way,” Charles said.

There is a reason why it will take until 2025 to transition to cage-free eggs, Charles said. The reason is simple. Although Kellogg has “already made good progress,” it knows that developing “alternative housing methods and ensuring a stable supply of high-quality ingredients takes time.”

Two major companies in the food sector committing to a timeline to phase out battery cages is significant, said Josh Balk, Director of Food Policy, HSUS. “Committing to a timeline to switch to only using eggs from cage-free chickens will vastly improve the lives of these animals,” Balk told JustMeans. “The timeline ensures that their suppliers know they’re serious and can develop plans to meet this demand.”

Phasing out cruel sow confinement crates

Cruelty is also built into pork production in the U.S. Sows are kept in gestation crates measuring two-feet wide, a space so narrow they can’t turn around. The sows are almost immobilized their entire lives, unable to enjoy normal pig behavior. However, many companies, like TGI Friday and Kellogg, are committing to phasing out these cruel crates, too. 

It is significant that companies are committing to phasing out gestation crates. “Most pork comes from operations that confine mother pigs in cages so small the animals can’t even turn around,” Balk said. “These smart, social animals are relegated to a cage barely larger than their body, only providing enough space to move side to side a few inches. These policies are ensuring that their pork will no long come from operations that that use this extremely cruel method of farming,” he added. 

Photo: Mercy for Animals