Snyder’s-Lance starts using cage-free eggs

Most people would agree that all animals, even those raised for food, should be given protection and in the very least the ability to move around freely. But for the overwhelming majority of hens who lay eggs sold in grocery stores and baked into manufactured goods in the U.S., doing so is the exception rather than the rule. Increasingly though, more food manufacturers are starting to move away from eggs produced from hens confined in cages, or “cage-free” eggs. The latest is snack foods maker Snyder’s-Lance.

Snyder’s-Lance is known to many for its sales of pretzels, chips and snack crackers. The company also makes baked goods in which eggs are an ingredient. The company announced last week that it would join the growing legion of food manufacturers in starting to use cage-free eggs. Other major food companies using cage-free eggs include Unilever (maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream), Kraft, Sara Lee, General Mills, and ConAgra. While Unilever is on the path towards using exclusively cage-free eggs, the other companies have switched a modest percentage of their eggs to cage-free.

More than ninety percent of the eggs produced in this country are produced by hens confined in wire cages so small they can’t even fully extend their wings without touching another bird or the sides of the cages. Each bird is allotted the space equivalent of a single sheet of paper on which to live her entire life. And their lives are devoid of the things that are most important to them: areas to nest, dustbathe, perch, or scratch.

Battery cages documented by Compassion Over Killing

Snyder’s-Lance’s move is a positive one and in line with its efforts to be a more sustainable company. “Snyder’s-Lance is committed to doing our part in ensuring a more humane and sustainable world,” said Sid Levy, Director of Communications and Community Relations for Snyder’s-Lance in a company news release. “We are committed to using the highest-quality ingredients and keeping in touch with consumer concerns. While the vast majority of our snack products do not contain eggs, choosing cage-free eggs is the right thing for our Company and our customers.”

And while cage-free doesn’t mean cruelty-free (the birds are still typically “debeaked” – having the tips of their beaks seared off with a hot blade to prevent pecking and they are still confined in large industrial warehouses), most people would agree that giving birds more space to move about and engage in important natural behaviors is a positive step.

Bon Appétit: Merci

In every sector of industry there are leaders, those companies that blaze the trail before their competitors, companies that are innovators willing to take risks. In the foodservice industry Bon Appétit Management Company has been that pioneer in the area of sustainability.

Bon Appétit Management Company aka BAMCO isn’t a household name, but chances are you or someone you know dines with them regularly. The company provides food service to more than 400 college and university dining halls, corporate cafeterias, museums and special events and operates in 31 states, serving about 130 million meals every year. That’s a lot of lunches.

Bon Appétit made history this week when it announced in a joint news release with The Humane Society of the United States that it is rolling out the most comprehensive animal welfare policy in the U.S. to date. Its policy includes:

  • Requiring that all pork it serves — currently 3 million pounds annually — be produced without gestation crate confinement systems, using higher-welfare group housing systems instead.
  • Switching all of its pre-cracked (liquid) eggs — currently 11 million eggs annually —  from hens confined in barren battery cages to hens living in cage-free farms, as it already does for shell eggs.
  • Entirely eliminating foie gras (livers of force-fed ducks) and veal from calves confined in crates from its menus.
  • Ramping up efforts to seek out the most responsible meat, poultry and egg producers — those who have received at least one of the four highest animal-welfare certifications.

The announcement indicates that the reforms will be completed by 2015.

Consumers are increasingly concerned about farm animal welfare—and about where their food comes from in general. Yet in many instances, we still expect to pay the lowest possible cost for our food, which is why factory farming has become pervasive in the U.S. Minimum input (including in terms of animal welfare) for maximum output has been the trajectory.

BAMCO  recognizes the problems inherent to factory farming. CEO Fedele Bauccio implicates factory farming as the root to many important societal issues, telling the Washington Post, “I really believe that everything stems from factory farms. Everything from the issues of safe food to public health to the dead zones in the ocean to what seeps into the waterways. It’s disgusting.”  He went on to say, “I think we now are large enough as a company that we can take a stand and say, ‘That’s it, no more. We’re not going to do this anymore.’ ”

As part of its commitment to animal welfare, BAMCO was the first in its sector to implement a policy requiring all its whole eggs to be cage-free in 2005. The company has endorsed legislation to outlaw gestation crates, and fought against the routine use of antibiotics in farm animals. Its parent company, Compass Group North America has also signed an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to ensure the fair treatment of the workers who pick tomatoes.

Bon Appétit understands that doing the right thing is the right thing for business. May many follow the trail it is blazing.