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.
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.