Tuesday, October 18, 2005

New deal just signed means eight million fewer battery eggs per year (31,000 fewer battery hens)

Good news. Any progress IS progress overall.

Today, food service provider Bon Appetit announced that after talks with
HSUS, it is ending its use of eggs from caged birds. This means that over
the next year alone, Bon Appetit will purchase at least eight million
fewer battery eggs than it did in the previous year, and all of the eggs
it replaces them with will be from cage-free producers who are
successfully audited by Humane Farm Animal Care.

You can read more about this on the HSUS web site:
http://tinyurl.com/c7h7m. Below is today's Wall Street Journal's article
on this.



The Yolk of Oppression: Eggs Are Latest Front In Humane-Food Wars
October 18, 2005; Page D1

It's getting easier to make a politically correct omelette.
In a move that signals the increasing importance of animal-welfare issues
to the food industry, a large food-service company is expected to
announce today that it will buy eggs only from hens that have not been
confined in cages.
The action by Bon Appétit Management Co., which operates 200 cafeterias
in colleges and corporate campuses, comes on the heels of similar
bird-liberating pledges by retailers and colleges around the country.
In January, Whole Foods Market Inc., which has 177 stores nationwide,
began selling only eggs and foods that include eggs from hens not raised
in cages. Wild Oats Markets Inc., with 80 stores, adopted a similar
policy last spring.
The policies promoting cage-free eggs are the latest examples of how
animal-welfare issues have moved into the mainstream. Last year,
California passed a law banning the force-feeding of birds to create foie
gras; a number of states have similar bills on the table. And several
restaurants around the country only serve veal from calves raised in a
less-confined environment.
Some food companies are marketing their products as not only more
wholesome than conventional fare, but also ethically superior. Products
are promoted as being free of genetically modified crops or "local," that
is, produced by farmers close to the area where products are sold. Many
companies, from Smithfield Foods Inc., a major pork producer, to
McDonald's Corp. have announced new antibiotic policies that limit the
amount or kind of the drugs they will allow producers to use. Eggs
reflect particularly well the plethora of claims now on the market:
Today, many cartons are plastered with language including organic,
free-range, "pastured," omega-3-enriched and antibiotic-free.
But in Europe, as a result of the threat of avian flu, some chickens are
losing certain freedoms. In late September, the Netherlands adopted new,
temporary standards for the management of free-range birds. Because of
concerns that these chickens could come into contact with wild, migratory
birds that could be disease carriers, outdoor areas must now be equipped
with nets and shields to protect the chickens from wild birds and their
The movement toward cage-free birds has been a boon for some egg
companies in the U.S. At Egg Innovations in Port Washington, Wisc., which
sells only cage-free eggs, sales are up 20% so far this month over the
same period last year; Eggland's Best in King of Prussia, Penn., which
sells a variety of egg styles, says its total sales are up 10% through
September over the same period last year, and its cage-free egg sales are
up 49%.
Several companies and schools say they started buying cage-free eggs
after being lobbied by the Humane Society of the United States, which
began a campaign in January to halt what it calls abusive "factory
farming" methods. "Caged birds suffer so immensely," says Paul Shapiro,
manager of the factory-farming campaign at the Humane Society. Critics
say the cages are cruel because they do not give birds enough space to
flap their wings and express other natural bird behavior.
Some scientists disagree. Jeff Armstrong, dean of agriculture and natural
resources at Michigan State University, was asked by the United Egg
Producers, a trade group for the egg industry, in 1998 to oversee a panel
of scientists and recommend new animal-welfare guidelines. He says that
nearly twice as many chickens die when they are raised without cages,
because they peck each other and suffer from more diseases.
"Cages are a humane way to raise hens, as long as some changes are made"
to the system, says Mr. Armstrong. The new guidelines he helped develop,
since adopted by about 80% of U.S. egg farmers, call for an average of 62
square inches per bird, up from 48, and increase to as much as 76 square
inches over the next few years as the plan is phased in. Farmers must
also remove chicken manure continually from the cages.
There are three basic methods of raising laying hens: caged, cage-free
and free-range. The vast majority world-wide -- about 98% -- are caged.
Cage-free birds do not spend any time in cages; instead, they roam the
floor of a hen house. Free-range birds are those that are allowed to
spend at least some portion of their lives in the outdoors, though not
necessarily on grass, while hens that are set out on grass are known as
Egg farmers use cages to separate birds from each other and to help
maintain cleanliness, which reduces disease, says Julian Madeley,
director general of the International Egg Commission, a trade group for
egg farmers around the world.
Eggs from caged and noncaged birds taste the same and have the same
nutritional profile, but cage-free eggs typically sell for as much as
three times more than regular ones. In September, the average price for
regular, large grade-A eggs was $1.28 a dozen.
The only eggs with a nutritional difference are those that come from
"pastured" hens, says Michael Hamm, a professor of sustainable
agriculture at Michigan State University. Their unique diet yields eggs
higher in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Only a tiny percentage of
eggs come from birds raised this way, and are usually sold at farmer's
This fall, Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, began purchasing only
cage-free shell eggs and liquid eggs at a cost of an extra five to six
thousand dollars a year. Since April, George Washington University in
Washington, D.C., has sold only cage-free eggs in its student grocery
store, and Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., says it plans to start
serving only cage-free shell eggs, pasteurized egg whites, liquid eggs
and all other egg products in its food-service operations within three
Bon Appétit -- a unit of U.K.-based food-services giant Compass Group PLC
-- buys about eight million shell eggs a year, as well as an unknown
quantity of liquid eggs, which are not currently included in the
cage-free pledge but may be in the future, says spokeswoman Maisie
Write to Katy McLaughlin at katy.mclaughlin@wsj.com
Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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