Friday, May 12, 2006

Google to Buy Only “Cage-Free” Eggs: Yet, Will Still Buy Veal: Contradictory Actions

Veal: Literally, babies taken from their mothers and put in chains. Come on Google, if you truly care about animal welfare, veal must go! Pictures from

Life in hell for chickens in caged facility.

Hey, I applaud their effort to addressing animal cruelty via cage-free eggs, but why buy veal?! There’s hardly anything worse than veal. Let’s hope they stop buying it. Maybe someone needs to contact them about this.

If they're serious and this is more than just a pr move, then they will have to stop buying veal. Doing so would make a huge difference. Yet, if they do not, then I'd say the egg move is a pr move.

For more information on why veal is cruel, including pictures, see

For an entertaining cartoon about veal see


Google uses clout to free hens


By Paul Rogers
Mercury News
Multiple hens are crammed in a single wire cage at a Maryland farm.
Erica Meier / Humane Society of the United States
Multiple hens are crammed in a single wire cage at a Maryland farm.

Google, which makes billions of dollars helping computer users navigate the Internet, will turn its attention today to something completely different:


In a growing animal welfare trend that is being embraced by natural foods markets, universities and technology companies, Google officials plan to announce their employee cafeterias will no longer serve eggs that come from hens crammed into small cages.

While that may sound like a small thing, Google employs roughly 6,000 workers, consumes about 300,000 eggs a year and uses 7,000 pounds of liquid egg products in its baking and cooking. By year end, the company will have 12 cafes on its Mountain View campus.

Animal rights groups urged the switch, noting that at many large farms, six or more hens are confined in a single wire cage. For 12 to 18 months they cannot flap their wings or forage for food, and egg industry guidelines require only 67 square inches of space for each bird to live out its life -- an area two-thirds the size of a sheet of notebook paper.

``This is a matter of common decency,'' said Paul Shapiro, director of the factory-farming campaign at the Humane Society of the United States, in Washington D.C. ``These animals are completely at our mercy. It should be a source of shame for us how miserably we treat them.''

The egg campaign, championed by the Humane Society, is the 2006 version of previous efforts by environmental and animal rights groups to steer shoppers toward socially responsible food choices. In recent years they have urged consumers not to buy certain types of tuna or swordfish because of overfishing; veal, because calves are confined in tight pens; or vegetables and fruits grown with pesticides.

Google officials say the decision is part of a wider effort to incorporate environmental and social values into food choices.

``We're happy to do it,'' said John Dickman, Google's global food services manager. ``There's a ripple effect that I think will happen. Other companies also will want to ensure humane treatment of animals.''

He said that while the company does buy veal occasionally, its seafood menu features only fish approved by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program. Its produce is mostly local, and its meats contain no nitrates or antibiotics.

In November, Bon Appétit Management, a Palo Alto company that operates 400 cafeterias for major corporate clients, including Oracle, Cisco, Yahoo and Nordstrom, also announced it will buy eggs only from cage-free hens. It purchases 8 million eggs a year.

America Online made a similar move last month. Markets such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats have done the same, and in February Trader Joe's announced it wouldn't sell any eggs from caged hens under its brand name. Dozens of universities, from Ohio State to Vassar, have also made the switch.

Farm industry leaders say the concerns about animal cruelty are misplaced.

``We don't have any problem with a consumer choice to buy cage-free eggs,'' said Gene Gregory, senior vice president for United Egg Producers in Atlanta, the leading trade association for egg farmers.

``We think that it is a shame, though, that people are being misled.''

At least 95 percent of the 300 million laying hens in the United States live in wire cages known as ``battery cages,'' because they are stacked in batteries, or arrays.

The cages allow farmers to reduce disease, and death rates are lower for birds living in cages than for birds that roam outside or on henhouse floors, Gregory said.

``We don't believe it is cruel,'' he said. ``I grew up on a farm when everything was free roaming. But the cages provide so many more benefits for the health and welfare of the birds.''

In a 2003 study of egg farms in the United Kingdom, hens in cages had a 5 percent mortality rate compared with 8 percent for both barn-raised and free-range chickens.

There are three ways to raise eggs. They can be produced by hens in tight cages. They can be produced by hens that walk around indoor henhouses, a type of egg known as ``cage free.'' Or they are ``free range,'' laid by chickens that live outdoors.

``Cage free'' eggs can cost up to twice as much in a supermarket as eggs from hens in cages. Higher costs are due to increased labor costs, and more broken eggs. Google's costs will increase only a few cents a dozen, Dickman said, because of volume buying.

Joy Mench, a professor of animal science at the University of California-Davis, said chickens tightly confined in cages do lose their natural behavior. Yet there's no clear answer on which system is better, she said. If henhouses are not kept clean, chickens roaming out of cages can have higher rates of disease, she noted.

``I've seen some good non-cage systems and some horrible non-cage systems,'' she said. ``Mortality and disease rates can be similar under both systems if management is good.'

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