General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS) announced Tuesday it is joining in the trend of switching to cage-free eggs. The food maker’s move comes as part of an update to its animal welfare policy that will be implemented into its international supply chain over time.
General Mills Joins Competitors in Going Cage-Free
United States consumers can expect to see cage-free eggs in supermarkets nationwide soon. General Mills, which makes popular products like Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Pillsbury and Yoplait, will cease purchasing eggs that originate from caged hens. This is part of a long-term initiative for the company, but it did not give a date as to when the switch would transpire.
As part of its animal welfare policy update, General Mills pledged to commit to provide farm animals with the Human Society’s “five freedoms.” This includes adequate space, comfortable living conditions, free from mutations, spared from mental discomfort and access to water and feed. The Humane Society welcomed the company’s decision.
In addition, General Mills is supporting pork suppliers who are removing the confinement of pregnant pigs, while enhancing pain relief for dairy cows and pigs. These animals have had to deal with castration and tail docking. It will further be tackling welfare matters related to the rapid growth of broiler chickens and turkeys.
General Mills recently announced that it is buying only free-range eggs for its European operations of Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream.
This work is done in close partnership with our suppliers and others, and we strive to create sustainable practices using the most humane animal treatment practices, which we believe will deliver greater business success by aligning closer to consumer expectations,” the company said in a statement.
“We believe that by striving for sustainable sourcing for all our animal ingredients, we will create the environment for more humane treatments of animals globally.”
It did warn, however, that an egg shortage may pose a challenge to the initiative. An avian flu outbreak prompted Midwestern farmers to kill 11 percent of their egg-producing birds.
Market Going Free-Range, Cage-Free
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cage-free hens are never confined in cages. Moreover, free-range and cage-free eggs are much healthier than eggs that come from caged hens. This is because caged hens have a much more restrictive diet and their health deteriorates because they have no space or even light at times.
The food maker noted that it’s giving consumers what they want. Last month, it confirmed that it’s removing artificial flavors and colors from its wide selection of cereals.
Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST) came under fire in June after an undercover investigation discovered that its egg supplier offered“inhumane” and unsanitary conditions at a Pennsylvania farm. The report found that hens laid eggs in very small cages next to dead birds and the facilities had broken eggs and dead chickens lying on the floor.
Other companies to push ahead with similar pledges include Dunkin Brands Group Inc (NASDAQ:DNKN), Kellogg Company (NYSE:K), Nestle, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) and Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX).