Food heavyweights Nestlé, Kraft-Heinz, Nando’s and Greggs get behind bill to end caging of egg-laying hens
27 Oct 2021 --- Nestlé, Kraft-Heinz, Nando’s and Greggs are urging policymakers to legislate the ban of enriched battery cages for egg-laying hens. Many egg producers have already agreed to remove cage egg production from their supply chain by 2025 but “more can be done.”
Christoph Meier, global head corporate media relations Nestlé, tells FoodIngredientsFirst the company recognizes the vital link between animal welfare and the health of animals raised for food.
“The health and welfare of the animals in our supply chain is important to our consumers and us. We strongly condemn any mistreatment of farm animals,” says Meier.
“We firmly believe that animal health and welfare standards can have both a direct and an indirect impact on food quality and safety.”
In March, the Swiss food giant called on EU policymakers to phase out cages in animal farming, starting with laying hens.
The intervention of these companies comes in the form of a letter and marks the first time corporations have spoken out about the persisting use of cages in egg production.
Cordelia Britton, head of campaigns for The Humane League UK stresses: “Companies who do not dedicate themselves to improving the lives of the animals in their supply chains risk being left behind and attracting negative press and campaigns in the process.”
Animal welfare builds from five freedoms
This step by big business also serves as an endorsement of Beatrice’s Bill, named after a hen rescued from cage farming. The bill was passed this September due to the efforts of The Humane League and the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation.
All major food companies in the UK have agreed to transition to cage-free egg supply chains. The shift has been underway for the last decade, with a ban on battery cage systems in 2012.
Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria have banned caging hens, while bans are on the way in Germany, Belgium, Czechia and Slovakia. Seven US states have phased out cage-egg production, and the EU has resolved to end the use of cages in farming by 2027.
Meier stresses that livestock keepers should adhere to the highest possible animal welfare standards based on the “five freedoms”: freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition, freedom from fear and distress, freedom from physical and thermal discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease and freedom to express standard patterns of behavior.
Long road to cage-free hens
The Humane League UK describes the stance by big business as rewarding and “a deeply encouraging development.”
“It shows that the resources we dedicate toward ending the abuse of animals raised for food are worthwhile and that companies can and do create meaningful changes on animal welfare issues,” Britton emphasizes.
Britton says having global food outfits such as Nestlé and Compass Group, promoting legislation that outlaws cages for laying hens are particularly poignant and vital for the animals the league represents.
Getting companies to this point, calling for a ban, has been decades in the making.
“People are waking up to the particular cruelty of trapping an animal, as complex and sensitive as a chicken in a cage, for their entire life,” says Britton.
Chicken comes before the egg in outlawing cages
Roughly 16 million chickens languish in cages across the UK, despite 76% of consumers considering the banning of cages a priority issue.
Meier outlines that by 2025 Nestlé will purchase all eggs from cage-free hens, including shell eggs and products such as whole egg powder and liquid and egg-white powder.
“A legislative change would lead to a much greater level of conversions from caged to cage-free systems,” says Meier.
The company received a Good Egg Award from Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) in 2018 for its diligence in sourcing eggs from cage-free hens.
By Inga de Jong
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