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Unilever, which owns brands like Ben & Jerry's, Hellmann's, and Lipton, has pledged to help fund technology that will bring more humane practices to the egg production industry.
Unilever, the multinational consumer goods company — whose products include major brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Hellmann’s, Lipton Tea, Breyers, Klondike, and many others — has announced plans to help end a controversial and cruel practice in egg production.
Although Unilever is not directly involved in egg production, the company is reliant on egg production for a number of its food brands, and has pledged to put an end to a process called maceration, in which millions of live chicks are dumped into grinders each year because they cannot produce eggs.
The company has committed to providing financial support for the research and development of technology that would eliminate the hatching and culling of male eggs. Furthermore, Unilever has announced that it is “exploring ways to further meet consumer needs for products with different nutrition profiles and preferences for plant-based protein sources through the use of egg-replacement ingredients in some product categories.”
So far, Unilever’s decision has already received approval from The Humane Society of the U.S.
“I’m a firm believer in the notion that the marketplace has a major role to play in helping animals,” wrote Humane Society CEO and president Wayne Pacelle.
“Every commercial enterprise, by making intentional choices, can build humane practices into its business models and provide consumers with choices that improve the lives of animals… It’s my hope that Kraft and other competitors, and ultimately the egg industry itself, will follow in Unilever’s footsteps and join the push for reforms that will please consumers and that are simply the right thing to do. When it’s the right moral decision, it’s typically the right business decision, too.”
For the latest food and drink updates, visit our Food News page.
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.
USDA scrambles to investigate egg lobby as CEO resigns
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has opened an investigation into the American Egg Board (AEB) after revelations by the Guardian that the USDA-appointed group conducted a months-long campaign against a San Francisco food startup called Hampton Creek.
Joanne Ivy, CEO of the AEB and 2015’s Egg Person of the Year, has stepped down and taken early retirement. She was originally due to leave at the end of the year.
The investigation comes after Utah senator Mike Lee called for an investigation into reports that the government-backed egg lobby had organized a concerted effort to tackle Hampton Creek, a company described in leaked emails as a “major threat” and “crisis” for the $5.5bn-a-year egg industry.
“[R]ecent news reports have brought to light a series of emails, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act [Foia], that contain compelling evidence that AEB leadership, including the Egg Board’s president and CEO, may have violated the federal laws and administrative regulations governing checkoff programs,” Lee wrote in a letter to agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, calling for the investigation.
A USDA official confirmed an investigation was now under way by its agricultural marketing service (AMS) arm, which carries out the day-to-day oversight of boards.
“AMS is conducting a thorough administrative review of issues involving the American Egg Board. This involves a substantial amount of material, and while AMS expects to complete the review in an expeditious manner, a complete review will take some time. AMS will not comment on personnel matters involving the board,” said a USDA spokesperson.
Emails obtained through a Foia request by attorney Jeffrey Light and passed to the Guardian showed what Lee called “a strategic, multifaceted campaign to use the power and resources of the federal government to undermine the economic prospects of Hampton Creek”.
Members of AEB leadership are alleged to have tried to prevent the sale of Hampton Creek’s product Just Mayo at Whole Foods to have advised Unilever on its lawsuit against the company (including suggesting Unilever solicit action from the Food and Drug Administration) and to have assessed the company’s patents for flaws.
They also joked about killing Tetrick himself: “Can we pool our money and put a hit on him?” asked Mike Sencer, executive vice-president of AEB member organization Hidden Villa Ranch. Mitch Kanter, executive vice president of the AEB, jokingly offered “to contact some of my old buddies in Brooklyn to pay Mr Tetrick a visit”. (AEB apologized for those statements when contacted by the Guardian.)
Board executives also discussed whether to confront chef Andrew Zimmern, who had featured Hampton Creek on his popular Travel Channel show Bizarre Foods and praised the company in a blog post characterized by them as a “love letter.”
While the Egg Board is a “checkoff” organization into which egg farmers are required to pay, it is specifically prohibited from influencing governmental action or disparaging non-egg commodities.
The AEB also distributed pro-industrial farming talking points through food and recipe blogs to counteract Hampton Creek chief executive Josh Tetrick’s criticism in the media of industrial farming.
Unilever to stop using coal for energy within five years
Unilever, the consumer goods giant, has pledged to eliminate coal from its energy usage within five years, and derive all of its energy worldwide solely from renewable sources by 2030.
The company will become “carbon positive” by 2030, through its own use of renewables, and by investing in generating more renewable energy than it needs, selling the surplus on the markets and making it available to local communities in areas where it operates. About 40% of the company’s energy use currently comes from green sources.
Unilever made the commitment ahead of the crunch UN climate change conference in Paris, which begins this weekend.
Paul Polman, chairman of the company, told the Guardian the target was “do-able, really do-able”. He cited a new factory in China which is powered by wind and solar energy, and an office in Paris which is “carbon positive”, contributing green electricity to the power grid.
He hoped other businesses would come forward with carbon-cutting plans at the conference, known as COP21. “We obviously want Paris to be ambitious and successful,” he told the Guardian in an interview. “[It will be] if the agreement has the right things in there, like a zero goal, a decarbonisation goal. I’m for 2050. Perhaps if we’re lucky they will say by the end of this century, but that’s a starting point.”
He said progress had been made towards an agreement by countries coming forward with targets on cutting or curbing their emissions, and he also called for a Paris deal to include a process of five-yearly reviews of emissions goals, with a provision for “no backsliding” – that countries can strengthen their targets in future but not row back on them.
He said he would also like to see a price put on carbon dioxide emissions, to encourage companies to cut them, but conceded that this was unlikely to be an outcome from the two weeks of talks.
Polman will attend the Paris conference along with business leaders from the World Business Council on Sustainable Development and other business groupings such as “the B team”, spearheaded by Sir Richard Branson, which call for stronger action on global warming.
The heavy presence of businesses at the conference has been criticised by some climate activists, but Polman said their presence, and commitments they make there, would encourage world leaders to be able to take a stronger stance. “We’re trying to keep the pressure up to get all these things from Paris.” Much of the financing for climate change projects comes from companies, he noted – “they really do more of the financing than the governments” in some areas, he said.
He also called for a strong focus on forestry at the talks, including pledges from rich nations to help the poor to protect their existing forests. “We want a moratorium on deforestation,” he said.
One of the leading causes of deforestation is to make way for palm oil plantations. Unilever was criticised recently by the Rainforest Action Network.
Polman defended the company’s stance, which includes membership of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil, a body that attempts to increase the supply of the oil grown in environmentally friendly conditions. “The reality of palm oil, it’s in many of the products we use today, from candles to food. And it’s actually a high-yield, very effective product. So if you look at alternatives, which are available, and we use them also in our products, then you need to actually use much more land surface to cultivate them. And the effects, some people would argue, would be worse. The issue with any crop that you grow, the beef from Argentina or Brazil, is that you grow it sustainably without deforestation.”
He said the main problem with unsustainable palm oil was now coming from smallholder farms “which are not in our supply chain as far as we can see”. He called for “an international effort by the whole community to ‘produce and protect’ schemes because the smallholder farmers need training, they need access to financing, they need land rights”. This would require providing financial assistance to the farmers, and would encourage small farmers to sign up to sustainable practices, because they would get higher yields.
Polman’s pledge to make Unilever “carbon positive” and remove coal from its operations has been accompanied by personal action, in that he has ensured that his own investments are not in fossil fuels. “My wife has made sure of that,” he said. Unilever’s pension funds are also committed to “responsible investing”, though it is not clear whether this means a full disinvestment from all fossil fuels and carbon-intensive businesses. Polman said the funds are operated at arms’ length from the company.
Subsidies for fossil fuels are still far outstripping those for renewable energy, he noted, even though the plummeting price of solar and wind are “exciting” for companies. “We barely subsidise green energy – one tenth of what we spend on fossil fuel subsidies goes to green energy,” he said.
More people would move to the “sharing economy”, he predicted, which would help to change the current model of capitalism. The growth of sharing, including web sites such as Airbnb and Gumtree, has been one of the recent surprises of the internet. Polman predicted that the changes that have happened in the music industry because of online sales – whereby the vinyl records of his youth gave way to CDs, which gave way to downloading – would be replicated in other areas.
He gave the example of a power drill, of which many people in the affluent world may own several. “The average time in our lifetime that we use a drill is less than two minutes, because you go jup and the hole is there. Then after six months you need to hang another picture, jup, another second. So there is an abundance of drills. So that becomes sharing economy.”
This would change the way economies grow, he said. “A hundred things that were made with stuff are now provided for in non-stuff, but it has the same service, and you are willing to pay for it.”
Critics might point out that most of Unilever’s products – from ice-cream to shower gel – are consumed once and cannot be shared after consumption.
Targets & performance
We have set targets for our top ten agricultural raw materials.
By 2020 we will source 100% of our agricultural raw materials sustainably: 10% by 2010 30% by 2012 50% by 2015 100% by 2020.
60% of our agricultural raw materials were sustainably sourced by the end of 2015. This means we exceeded our interim milestone of 50% by 2015.
Half our raw materials come from farms and forests. The decisions we make on who we source from, and how we work with them, can have profound implications on global resources and climate change. They also have a wider social impact on human development, affecting the livelihoods of many.
By sourcing sustainably, we can protect scarce resources. We can ensure deforestation, land use and social and community issues are managed responsibly. For our business, sustainable sourcing means we ensure security of supply and reduce market volatility.
We are first concentrating on our top ten agricultural raw materials. These account for around two thirds of our volumes. They include palm oil, paper and board, soy, sugar, tea, fruit and vegetables, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, dairy ingredients and cocoa.
By sharing information about where products come from, we are also meeting emerging consumer desires for more sustainable products. More of our brands are able to share their sustainability stories with our consumers: Fruttare is labelling its frozen fruit bars as sustainably sourced, Breyers has launched sustainably sourced vanilla for its ice cream, Magnum is using sustainable cocoa certified by Rainforest Alliance. Lipton is now sourcing 100% Rainforest Alliance certified tea for all its tea bags and Knorr is using more sustainably sourced vegetables and herbs.
In 2015 we had a slow-down in on-boarding our suppliers to our sustainable sourcing programme, so we are behind plan for our fruit and vegetable portfolio. These portfolios are highly complex and diverse: our challenge is to close all the gaps and include in our sustainable sourcing programme some complex materials which have few supply options. We anticipate reaching 100% sustainable sourcing for our fruit and vegetable portfolios by 2020.
We want to drive wider transformational change across industries and systems working closely with others is essential to achieving this. We are determined to eliminate deforestation from supply chains – our own and those of others. Over 90% of globally traded palm oil is now covered by ‘no deforestation’ pledges. The challenge is to turn those promises into action, and that requires a transformational change in global systems.
Please see Independent Assurance (EN) for more details of our assurance programme across the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.
SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL
- We will purchase all palm oil from certified sustainable sources by 2015.
- We will purchase all palm oil sustainably from certified, traceable sources by 2019.
(Target revised from 2020 to 2019 in 2016)
100% of palm oil from sustainable sources by end 2012: through a combination of certified segregated and mass balance supply and GreenPalm certificates.*
19% of palm oil purchased from certified, traceable sources (through RSPO mass balance** and segregated supply) by end 2015.
We accelerated sourcing of physically certified palm oil to 19% (up from 8% in 2014). Our remaining 81% is covered by GreenPalm certificates. We will phase out GreenPalm as we progress towards 100% physically certified oil. In 2016 we brought forward our 2020 target to achieve palm oil from certified, traceable sources by 2019.
In 2015 we inaugurated our palm oil facility in Sei Mangkei, North Sumatra to support a more traceable, certified supply chain. Through a partnership with our supplier PTPN III, RSPO and IDH, we are engaging 600 independent smallholder farmers in a sustainability programme. The next phase is scaling this up to benefit up to 25,000 farmers.
Robust traceability is a crucial first step in protecting peat lands and forests. We are partnering with World Resources Institute, Proforest and Daemeter to assess risks and opportunities associated with the locations of mills in our supply chain. At end 2015, 73% of the palm oil reported in our supply chain was traceable to known mills.
** Actual split at end 2012: 97%‡ via GreenPalm certificates and 3%‡ from certified, traceable sources (through a segregated supply)
SUSTAINABLE PAPER AND BOARD
We will source 75% of the paper and board for our packaging from certified sustainably managed forests or from recycled material by 2015. We will reach 100% by 2020.
98% of our paper and board came from certified sustainably managed forests or from recycled material by end 2015.
2015 has been a challenging year as we have pushed hard to accelerate our target to reach 100%, whilst ensuring the robustness of our reporting process. 49% † of our total volume was received with a third party certification claim and full chain of custody and has been independently assured by PwC for the first time in 2015.
However, there are challenges for our suppliers in providing verifiable evidence to support the make-up of uncertified products, which we will need to address. To this end, we will continue to increase the volume of certified recycled products we purchase.
We are confident that this degree of rigour is necessary, and have learned a great deal from this process. For example, an audit conducted by Proforest flagged particular issues with gathering sufficient evidence in Asia, which we will work to address. However, for the rest of our global supply we see high levels of reliability.
† Independently assured by PwC.
We will source sustainably all soy beans by 2014 and all soy oils by 2020.
100% soy beans purchased from sustainable sources by end 2014.
43% soy oil purchased from sustainable sources by end 2015.
We achieved our target to source 100% of our soy beans sustainably by 2014 (through the physical purchase of RTRS certified beans for our AdeS brand, expressed against our AdeS soy beans only baseline).
Our US pilot grew from just 44,000 acres under cultivation in 2013, to 100,000 acres in 2014 to over 400,000 acres in 2015. Unilever US announced it would source all its soy sustainably by 2017 – this represents 1 million acres.
43% of the soy oil we purchased was from sustainable sources (expressed against our soy oil only baseline). This includes Round Table for Responsible Soy (RTRS) certificates purchased to cover 100% of our Latin American soy oil and self-verified soy oil in the US.
In Brazil in 2015 we started a partnership with Santander, Yara Fertilizers, Bayer CropScience and Aliança da Terra to develop 100,000 acres of RTRS certified soy bean production.
- By 2015 we aim to have the tea in all Lipton tea bags sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ estates.
- By 2020, 100% of Unilever’s tea, including loose tea, will be sustainably sourced.
100% of the tea in our Lipton tea bag blends come from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ sources by end 2015.
Overall, 66% of the tea purchased for all our brands was sourced from sustainable sources: 64% was Rainforest Alliance Certified™ and 2% was trustea Verified.
We buy around 10% of the world’s black tea and in 2007 we were the first major tea company to commit to sustainable sourcing of tea on a large scale. By the end of 2015, 100% of the tea in our Lipton tea bag blends and 66% of our volumes overall came from sustainable sources. Our continuous efforts to encourage our suppliers and farmers to produce sustainably mean we are on track to achieve our 2020 target for all our tea.
We continue to partner with suppliers such as McLeod Russel, Camellia and the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA). In 2014 the KTDA achieved a significant milestone when all its factories completed the Rainforest Alliance certification process.
Today around 20% of the world’s tea production is Rainforest Alliance Certified TM . That’s over 900,000 tonnes of tea from around 900 estates and more than 740,000 smallholders.
SUSTAINABLE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
- We will purchase 100% of our fruit from sustainable sources by 2015.
- We will purchase 50% of our top 13 vegetables and herbs from sustainable sources by 2012 and 100% by 2015. This accounts for over 80% of our global vegetable and herb volume.
67 67% † of fruit purchased sustainably by end 2015.
92 92% † of our top 13 vegetables and herbs purchased from sustainable sources by end 2015, up from 59% in 2012.
We bought our first sustainable fruit in 2012. Progress has been slower than we would have liked and we have had some setbacks towards our 2015 target.
We have exceeded our interim milestone of 50% by 2012 (reaching 59%), but fruit and vegetables is a complex portfolio of materials with a very large and diverse supply base. These supply chain complexities made it difficult to achieve our 100% target across the entire portfolio by 2015.
Nonetheless we continue to work toward 100%, working in partnership with peers across the industry to cover the entirety of our supply base.
† Independently assured by PwC.
We will source cocoa sustainably for our Magnum ice cream by 2015. All other cocoa will be sourced sustainably by 2020.
98% of cocoa for Magnum sustainably sourced through Rainforest Alliance certification by end 2015.
Overall, 60% of all cocoa sourced sustainably.
Magnum is our biggest ice cream and is on sale in 52 countries, with all but two of them now sourcing Rainforest Alliance Certified TM
At 98%, we were very close to reaching our interim milestone for Magnum by the end of 2015. We are working hard to complete the final 2% conversion to Rainforest Alliance Certified TM cocoa.
We remain on track towards our 2020 target of sourcing all our cocoa sustainably, increasing from 46% in 2014 to 60% in 2015.
We will source all sugar sustainably by 2020.
60% † of sugar sustainably sourced by end 2015.
We verify sugar beet against our Sustainable Agriculture Code and use Bonsucro certification for sugar cane. In 2015 our sustainably sourced sugar volumes reduced to 60% † , down from 64% in 2014.
In Europe we continued to make good progress on sugar beet, partially driven by a trial of the SAI Platform’s Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA), a common code for the industry. Significant volumes in Germany, Sweden and Poland have been successfully incorporated into the FSA.
On cane sugar we continue our dual strategy of creating more physical capacity on the ground whilst continuing to purchase credits.
While acting individually we have been struggling to create momentum and capacity on the ground. To unlock this, we continue as an active member of Bonsucro and are looking for potential partners who can support our sustainability objectives. We are convinced that we remain on track and will see more momentum in 2016.
† Independently assured by PwC.
SUSTAINABLE SUNFLOWER OIL
We will source all sunflower oil sustainably by 2020.
45% of sunflower oil sustainably sourced by end 2015.
We have made good progress in sustainably sourcing our sunflower oil. We have increased our volume from 37% in 2014 to 45% in 2015 by rolling out our practices with our partners Cargill and ADM.
Our sustainable sourcing strategy is continuously evolving. For example, we set ourselves the ambition of achieving 100% sustainable sunflower oil from our supply base in Russia by 2015. However, as we took on more suppliers during the year - giving us the opportunity to include a larger group of farmers and suppliers in our sustainable sourcing programme – this also meant that we did not reach our 2015 ambition.
SUSTAINABLE RAPESEED OIL
We will source all rapeseed oil sustainably by 2020.
76% of rapeseed oil sustainably sourced by end 2015.
In 2015, the vast majority of our European rapeseed volumes were sourced sustainably. This includes the oil for our German Rama spreads (via self-assessment), and Hellmann’s mayonnaise in the UK. It also covers all our Flora range in the UK. The majority of these volumes are being sourced locally from growers located near our manufacturing plants.
Increasingly brands such as Rama and Flora are telling consumers about the benefits of these changes, through factory open days, publicising healthy recipes and linking up with popular TV shows.
We will source all dairy produce sustainably by 2020.
59% of dairy produce sustainably sourced by end 2015.
We made good progress, increasing from 51% in 2014 to 59% in 2015, thanks to purchases from a number of suppliers across the Nordics, the UK and improved results of our suppliers in the US.
In 2015 we initiated a pilot in India with World Animal Protection, looking initially at the animal welfare, feed and water practices of smallholders.
We continued our efforts to convert industry sectors towards sustainable sourcing, building on our success in Australia and Ireland – where since 2013 and 2015 respectively, the dairy sector has programmes that are equivalent to our Sustainable Agriculture Code (SAC). In Europe, we have benchmarked sustainability programmes with some of our larger suppliers, showing that they are equivalent to our SAC - which has enabled significant growth in our sourcing of sustainable dairy.
We are looking next at what we can achieve in Turkey and Russia.
FAIRTRADE BEN & JERRY'S
All flavours of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will be Fairtrade certified by 2013.
77 77% of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavours achieved Fairtrade certification in 2013. We reached 100% in 2014.
Ben & Jerry’s ice creams were the first to use Fairtrade (FT) ingredients in 2005. By the end of 2011 in Europe, we achieved Fairtrade certification for all our products produced and distributed in Europe.
In 2012, due to issues around quality and availability, we found we could not source all the FT-certified ingredients we needed for a global conversion. So we revised our target from our previous ‘all ingredients’ to ‘all flavours’ certified.
We identified that by using FT ingredients for the five major commodities in all our base mixes and for our chunks and swirls, and following proper Fairtrade derogation procedures, all our ice cream flavours would qualify for Fairtrade certification by 2013. We reached 77% in 2013.
In 2013 we also decided to source only non-GMO ingredients by seed source. As this added complexity to our conversion programmes, we delayed our plans, achieving FT-certification for all our flavours in 2014.
We aim to move to 100% cage-free eggs for all our products, including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Hellmann’s, Amora and Calvé mayonnaises.
45% of eggs were cage-free by end 2015.
Our research shows that consumers prefer products made with cage-free eggs. We use eggs in mayonnaises, dressings, sauces and ice cream. However, the conditions in which eggs are produced vary widely around the world. We take animal welfare seriously as a social and ethical concern.
In Western Europe, Hellmann’s, Amora and Calvé have been 100% cage-free since 2009, and once we completed the conversion of our supply chain in Eastern Europe, all of our European products were able to use cage-fee eggs by 2014.
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has used only cage-free eggs in Europe since 2004 by the end of 2011, 99% of all eggs used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream mix worldwide were cage-free too.
We continue to make good progress with our North American supply base - reaching over 60% of our egg requirements originating from cage-free sources by the end of 2015.
SUSTAINABLE SOURCING OF OFFICE MATERIALS
By 2013 we will source all paper-based office materials for our top 21 countries from either certified sustainable forests or recycled sources.
100% of paper-based materials from certified sustainable forests or recycled sources by end 2013.
Our commitment covers office paper products such as printer paper, note books and envelopes. By using paper from sustainable or recycled sources, we avoid using wood from non-sustainable sources, helping our aim to end deforestation.
We achieved our target in 2013, when 100% of our paper-based office materials for our top 21 countries came from either certified, sustainable forests or recycled sources. All our suppliers sign a certificate of compliance, and we monitor compliance via quarterly reporting. Where necessary, we have changed from non-sustainable products to sustainable products.
We then extended our ambition from the top 21 countries to all other countries in Europe and Latin America, with the aim of reaching 100% compliance by the end of 2015, which we achieved.
We are reviewing the global supply market during 2016 and will decide if we can further extend our commitment to cover countries in Africa and Asia during 2016-2017.
Targeted Corporate Campaigns
Where companies refused to adopt a cage-free policy, or refused to meet with advocates at all, they launched campaigns to push the issue.
- Focusing on a single issue. Most major farm animal advocacy groups agreed to focus on a single issue for the first time. This both built stronger campaigns and created a clearer and more reasonable ask for companies, which previously were confronted with multiple calls to do different things.
- Establishing expectations. Before each campaign, advocates tried to meet with the company to outline the imminent campaign. In many cases, after seeing the campaign plan companies committed to a cage-free policy.
- Social media. Advocates mobilized supporters to sign Change.org petitions, comment on companies’ Facebook pages, and otherwise reach the company via social media to urge them to improve their practices.
- Online video. Advocates created YouTube and Facebook videos to alert companies’ consumers to the suffering of hens in their supply chains. This tactic worked especially well because the reality of hens’ treatment conflicted with the images that companies had portrayed, leading consumers to feel deceived.
- Grassroots activism. Activists organized street protests outside of stores and restaurants, and at foodservice companies’ campus accounts, and mobilized supporters to call and email the company to express their support for cage-free policies.
- Targeted advertising. Advocates took out outdoor ads around company HQ’s, targeted online ads, and sometimes full-page newspaper ads and even TV ads to put pressure on particularly stubborn companies.
- Celebrities. In particularly tough campaigns, advocates called on celebrities, including Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling, whose letters to companies calling for reform generated significant news coverage.
- Investor relations. Advocates bought stock in target companies, filed shareholder resolutions, and secured the support of institutional investors for reforms.
Free the Hens, Costco!
I LIKE Costco. We backed the same presidential candidate in the past few elections, and I like its generous wages and willingness to give its employees health care. And of course I agree with it on gay rights.
I’ve also been impressed by Costco’s support for animal protection. For example, the company mandated that its suppliers stop locking pregnant pigs in cages called gestation crates by 2022. So I don’t understand how Costco can justify its refusal to set a timeline for getting rid of eggs from battery cages, which is the third system, along with pork and veal, in the factory farming cruelty trifecta.
According to the industry itself, each hen in a battery cage is given less than 9 inches by 9 inches in which to live her entire life, crammed into a cage about the size of a file drawer with four or more other hens. (Costco sells some eggs that are organic and cage-free, but the vast majority are not.)
Make no mistake about it: Battery cages torment animals. Physically, the animals’ muscles and bones waste away from lack of use, just as yours would if you were unable to move around for two years.
That’s why multiple investigations into battery cages document animals with deteriorated spinal cords, some who have become paralyzed and then mummified in their cages. It’s so common that the industry has a name for it: cage layer fatigue. It doesn’t happen to animals that are allowed to move.
Even after an undercover video recently documented a Costco egg supplier locking birds in cages with the mummified corpses of their dead cage mates, Costco responded that the supplier was “behaving appropriately.”
Mentally, the birds, which can perform comparably to dogs on scientific animal behavior tests, go insane in these tiny cages. Imagine cramming five cats or dogs into tiny cages, hundreds of thousands in each shed, for their entire lives. That would warrant cruelty charges, of course. But when the egg industry does it to hens, it’s considered business as usual.
That’s why, in a ballot measure, the people of California banned the cages in 2008, reportedly by a margin greater than in any previous initiative.
Many consumers just don’t want them. In 2007, Costco said that it didn’t want them either it promised to stop selling eggs from hens that are confined in cages, but almost 10 years later, the company has yet to release a timeline.
So Costco, which has generally been in front of the curve of social values, is now lagging. Unilever, which produces Hellmann’s mayonnaise, will be 100 percent cage-free by 2020. So will some of the largest food-service companies — including Aramark, Sodexo and Compass Group. Burger King will be 100 percent cage-free by 2017, and Whole Foods hasn’t sold caged eggs in more than a decade.
At Costco though, there’s no end in sight for this hideously outdated and cruel practice. A company that takes pride in its other socially conscious positions can do better than this.
HSUS grades companies on animal welfare pledges: see how McDonald’s, Subway, Starbucks and others performed
Over the last decade, dozens of corporations from Walmart to McDonald’s have promised to reduce animal suffering in their supply chains, including eliminating cages for egg-laying hens, ending the sourcing of pork from operations that use gestation crates, and mandating better treatment of chickens in the poultry industry. A report card we are releasing today tracks the progress these and other companies have made toward achieving these important goals.
On the positive side, our Food Industry Scorecard found that many companies are making tremendous strides toward implementing the changes they’ve promised to make. Sodexo, one of the world’s largest food corporations, is more than 60% toward its goal of using only cage-free eggs. Costco, the second-largest retailer in the world, reports that 94% of its eggs are cage-free. And Unilever, also one of the world’s largest food conglomerates, is 99% of the way toward a cage-free egg supply chain.
Unfortunately, many companies also report no progress, or only minimal progress, or have failed outright to keep their promises. For example, despite a 2012 promise to “rapidly eliminate” gestation crates, the restaurant chain Subway hasn’t reported any advances toward that goal in fact, at present, Subway does not report using any amount of gestation-crate-free pork.
We also determined that some companies that publicly made strong commitments quietly went on to weaken them. Starbucks promised to switch to 100% cage-free eggs—an announcement covered in Forbes, Fortune, TIME and other outlets. But the company later discreetly altered that pledge to apply just to company-owned locations, excluding the roughly 40% of its restaurants that are licensed.
Other companies surveyed appear to have backtracked altogether. Marriott, for example, announced in 2013 that it would eliminate gestation crates from its pork supply chain within five years however, on its scorecard submission, the company reported that it does not have such a policy now.
Altogether, we surveyed roughly 100 of the largest food companies, asking them a series of questions designed to help us measure their movement. Our goal is to show compassionate consumers and other observers which companies are following through on their promises and which are lagging behind. It will also help those corporations working earnestly to eliminate practices tied to animal cruelty and suffering to reassure their customers that they are delivering on their pledges.
We feel a sense of urgency in this work, because the situation for animals raised for food in and this country (and around the world) remains grim. Millions of pigs are still locked in gestation crates, and most of the egg industry’s 300 million hens are still confined inside cages. Billions of chickens raised for meat continue suffering through cruel conditions that deny their most basic biological and behavioral needs.
That’s why we are calling on companies that are failing to take their pledges seriously—or that have never made meaningful pledges—to get in step. Animals suffering in the food supply chain don’t need empty promises, they need tangible changes. We’re going to hold companies accountable, and push them to do better.
How animal welfare advocates are winning the cage-free egg war
If you research farm animal welfare for long enough, you begin to exist in a strange, paradoxical state: Everything is both getting better and worse at the same time. Worse, because the cruel factory farming model largely invented in the United States has been exported around the world, which in [&hellip]
If you research farm animal welfare for long enough, you begin to exist in a strange, paradoxical state: Everything is both getting better and worse at the same time.
Worse, because the cruel factory farming model largely invented in the United States has been exported around the world, which in turn has rapidly increased the number of factory-farmed animals. From 1988 to 2018 — or about the last 30 years — global meat production has increased by 100 percent, while the human population has only grown by about 50 percent.
But things are better, too, because some of the worst factory farming practices are on their way out.
One of those practices is the use of “battery cages” in the egg industry, cages so small that hens can’t even spread their wings. Since the 1960s, egg farmers in the US have predominantly used these cages — but that’s starting to change.
Due to a number of states banning the use of battery cages, and some states even banning the sale of eggs from caged hens, along with big food companies pledging to phase them out of their supply chains, the use of battery cages has been on a rapid decline in the last six years, replaced by cage-free barns.
According to an analysis by the Humane League, one of several animal welfare nonprofits that lobby food companies to improve their animal welfare standards, in 2015, just 6 percent of US hens were raised cage-free. Now, 29 percent are. That’s over 70 million hens out of cages in just six years — easily one of the biggest successes of the animal welfare movement. (Disclosure: I worked on cage-free advocacy as part of my duties in my earlier career.)
To be sure, cage-free hens still have it awful. Most are crowded into dark barns, still have part of their beaks cut off to prevent them from pecking one another, and still face a brutal slaughter. But cage-free barns are markedly less awful, and this enormous change in egg production is cause for measured celebration.
So how did this major shift in our food system happen so quickly? It wasn’t because all of a sudden elected officials and food executives had a change of heart. It happened because for over 15 years, animal welfare advocates chipped away at the problem with a singular, practically obsessive focus.
How the animal welfare movement changed the egg industry
In the early 2000s, advocates began to conduct investigations of battery cage egg farms, exposing a particularly cruel practice most Americans were unfamiliar with. College students campaigned to get their cafeterias to go cage-free. And some sustainability-minded companies, like Whole Foods, became early adopters of cage-free eggs.
Then, in 2008, advocates got a measure on California’s ballot to phase out battery cages (and other practices). Voters approved the measure, and two years later the California legislature updated the law to include a ban on the sale of eggs from caged hens.
“As California goes, so goes the nation” is a cliché, but an accurate and informative one on farm animal welfare.
California’s law gave advocates momentum to help pass laws in a few other states, like Michigan and Oregon, and big food companies slowly started pledging to source cage-free eggs.
As you can see in the chart, things really took off in 2015, which is when the California law went into effect. In 2015 and 2016, advocates ran campaigns to get over 200 food companies to source cage-free eggs by 2025 (some sooner) and in the following years more states passed cage-free bans, including California, which upgraded its law yet again. All of this led to a quadrupling of cage-free eggs in just six years. It was a positive feedback loop of corporate and policy progress feeding off one another.
The progress continues: just last week, Utah became the eighth state to ban battery cages. Once the law is implemented in 2025, it’ll get nearly 5 million hens out of cages each year and require egg producers to provide some “environmental enrichment,” like perches and nest boxes.
The cage-free progress extends beyond the US, too — the momentum here has sparked cage-free campaigns in other parts of the world, mostly Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia, spurred in part from the Humane League’s “Open Wing Alliance” program, which provides grants to animal welfare groups in countries where there is less available funding.
What about the hundreds of millions of US hens still in cages?
Despite the progress, there are some reasons to temper optimism.
First, as noted above, factory farming is so terrible for animal welfare that even after big changes are implemented — like banning cages — farm animals’ existence is still miserable. Getting rid of cages, one of the worst factory farming practices, is the first in a long list of practices advocates want to phase out (in addition to persuading consumers to eat fewer eggs, or switch to plant-based eggs).
Second, meat industry trade groups are suing to halt the implementation and even overturn California’s latest farm animal welfare law. They’ve consistently lost their legal challenges, but anything could happen with Trump-appointed judges throughout the federal judiciary and a conservative Supreme Court.
Third, all those pledges from companies to source cage-free eggs by 2025 are just that —pledges. There’s no legal enforcement to hold them to their word, but advocates are monitoring which ones are on track.
It’s important to look at what supermarkets are doing, since over half of all eggs are sold in cartons on store shelves. Some are either not reporting progress, like Publix, ALDI, and Food Lion, or have made modest progress, like Walmart. On the other hand, Trader Joe’s is already at 60 percent cage-free, while Kroger is at 23 percent and Albertsons is at 28 percent.
Restaurant chains that serve a lot of breakfast food (and thus a lot of eggs) are also a mixed bag: McDonald’s is almost halfway there, while Dunkin’ Donuts and IHOP are at just 11 and 5 percent, respectively. And some chains aren’t budging — Denny’s, Carl’s Jr., and Hardee’s haven’t reported progress, while Wendy’s cage-free egg policy applies to just about 5 percent of their locations.
To get the remaining 71 percent of hens out of cages, advocates will need a lot to go right: courts to uphold California’s law, more states to ban cages, and big food companies to follow through on their pledges.
There’s reason to believe these companies, or at least a lot of them, could follow through by 2025, since some of the big ones that pledged to transition earlier — around 2020 — report they are now 100 percent cage-free, like Taco Bell and Unilever.
However, it’s important to note that this is all good-faith reporting food companies aren’t making their egg purchase orders public or getting audited. Rather, they are providing updates in their annual corporate responsibility reports, which means advocates and the general public have to take them at their word.
That may be asking a lot, as plenty of corporations have been accused of exaggerating sustainability claims, known as “greenwashing,” or not following through on sustainability goals.
And there’s one last reason to temper optimism: we don’t yet know if there will even be enough cage-free eggs by 2025 to meet the demands of the new laws and corporate pledges. Some in the egg industry say there won’t be.
At the same time, some of the biggest US egg companies are bullish on cage-free production. The second biggest, Rose Acre Farms, is at 20 percent cage-free and the third biggest, Versova, is at about 10 percent. MPS Egg Farms, the seventh largest, was at 25 percent as of a year ago, and Herbruck’s, ranked ninth, is at 75 percent cage-free with plans to be at 100 percent by 2024. The top US egg producer, Cal-Maine Foods, says its “specialty eggs” account for 24 percent of their supply, but in a request for comment Cal-Maine declined to disclose what percentage of their specialty egg supply is currently cage-free.
These egg producers have invested hundreds of millions to build new-cage free barns or convert existing ones. Despite these improvements, the cost of cage-free eggs relative to regular eggs has actually fallen in recent years.
For example, if you bought cage-free eggs at the supermarket in late 2016, back when all the fast food chains and grocers were pledging to change their supply, you paid an average of about 11 cents extra per cage-free egg. Today, you might pay about 4 cents extra per cage-free egg. Much of this price drop can probably be attributed to increased supply, brought on by state laws and big companies like McDonald’s demanding cage-free eggs from their suppliers.
The value of putting wins on the board
One could read all this and think, “Really? Making one sector of the food industry a little less miserable is the best the animal welfare movement can do?” And that’s an understandable criticism, considering the scope and severity of factory farming.
But I think you could see it another way, too: A young, tiny movement has changed how an enormous, powerful, and long-intransigent industry does a fundamental part of its business — in under two decades, no less. Despite how modest the reforms are, they are reforms, and they could pave the way for future ones.
Faced with an immense amount of animal suffering, it’s sometimes hard, as an animal welfare researcher, to see a way out of our factory farming food system. But taking the long view, and remembering that change takes time and that change is happening (and celebrating it) certainly helps.
Breaking news: Parent company of Giant Food, Food Lion and Stop & Shop to eliminate cruel cages for egg-laying hens, mother pigs
Ahold Delhaize, the company that owns some of the largest grocery chains in the United States, including Food Lion, Giant Food, the GIANT Company, Hannaford and Stop & Shop, has announced it will only sell eggs from cage-free chickens across all its stores by 2025 or sooner. The company will also eliminate any pork produced through locking mother pigs in gestation crates from its supply chain.
This is incredible news, coming as it does from what is the nation’s fourth-largest grocery retailer, with more than 2,000 locations. The company’s new animal welfare policy, which comes after dialogue with the Humane Society of the United States, eliminates two of the most heinous forms of intensive animal confinement in cages and crates. Cages used to confine egg-laying chickens are so small that the animals cannot express natural behaviors like running, exploring or even extending their wings. Each chicken is given less space than a sheet of paper on which to live. Gestation crates, used to confine mother pigs, are about the same width and length of the animal’s body, leaving them with no room to even turn around.
The announcement from Ahold Delhaize is the latest in a series of similar pledges that the HSUS, Humane Society International, and other animal protection organizations have secured from hundreds of major food companies over the last decade, including Kroger, Nestle and Unilever. With our Food Industry Scorecard, we are keeping track of the progress these companies are making toward achieving their cage-free goals.
In addition, we have helped secure the passage of a dozen state laws to end the cruel cage confinement of farm animals, including in Massachusetts where Ahold Delhaize is based.
While cage-free doesn’t equate to cruelty-free, thanks to the headway we’re making, tens of millions of animals will never know the misery of being locked in tiny cages for their entire lives. Let’s take a moment today to celebrate this incredible win for egg-laying hens and mother pigs even as we continue our work to dismantle the cruelty of cage confinement in the United States and abroad.
Cadbury and Mars ɻreak promises' on additives
The cynical money-grubbing practices of food manufacturers are so yawn-makingly familiar these days. But maybe this one will tickle your jaded outrage glands - it does mine . I'd like to know what you think.
A few years back, after endless scientific debate, the government's Food Standards Agency commissioned some research on five commonly used food colourings - all of them azo dyes. Everyone knew azo dyes, which are derived from tar, were nasty, some causing problems from allergic reaction to cancer. Indeed some of them (including the red dye known as Sudan 1) are already banned in a number of places.
There was also an interesting additional hypothesis that needed looking at - it was thought azo dyes, when combined with the soft drink preservative sodium benzoate, had particularly gruesome effects - causing hyperactivity in children. And since azo dyes make yellow, reds and browns in cheap sweets and cakes, and sodium benzoate appears in flavoured waters, Irn-Bru and so on, children get to combine the two quite often.
The scientists reported back to the government in 2007. They were definite - the combination induced hyperactivity in children, even those that had no previous history of the condition. They recommended immediate action.
Government dithered. There were a lot of well-connected sweet and cake manufacturers to consult with. And azo dyes are profitable, being slightly cheaper than the alternatives. But eventually a standard "voluntary phase-out" was worked out. And by the middle of last year most had begun to do so: supermarkets banned them in own-brand products, Nestle, even Swizzels Matlow (who make some of Britain's most fantastically lurid sweets - Refreshers, Rainbow drops and Love Hearts) switched production over to "natural dyes". Mars and Cadbury agreed to do so too.
So here we are, nearly at Easter 2009. How is the yolk in your Cadbury's Creme Egg so delightfully yellow? Through the addition of azo dye E110 Sunset Yellow, of course. The same goes for a whole dentists' nightmare of favourites that Cadbury sells - Dairy Milk, Turkish Delight, Rose's tins of retro family sweets (avoid the orange creme), Maynard's Wine Gums and Sports Mixture. Mars's Starburst Choozers still contain two and Mars Revels three of the "Dirty Six" colours. The Food Commission, which has just done a sweetshop survey, say that Mars and Cadbury pledged to remove these colourings by the end of last year.
Action on Additives co-ordinator Anna Glayzer said, "To make these pledges at times of high media attention and then quietly neglect to honour them is simply cynical PR opportunism. It is highly irresponsible behaviour from major multinational confectioners." Quite. Surprised? Since when did major corporations take voluntary action on safety grounds seriously?
Now I'm generally an eat, drink and don't-fuss-too-much sort. I can't be bothered to get heated at much that stupid food corporations do for profit, unless it involves cruelty to humans and animals (unfortunately it does, more than you might think). But I have a sweet-obsessed, allergy-prone asthmatic 4-year-old, and I am pretty sure that the fact that some sweets make her face come up like a raspberry while others don't is an additives issue. Angry with Cadbury? You bet.