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Continued shift to ‘cage-free’ in US egg market

The movement towards cage-free hen housing in the United States has reached a tipping point in recent months with many major food retailers announcing their commitment to cage-free eggs.

Kroger, the country's largest traditional supermarket chain, is the latest to announce that it will ensure that 100% of the eggs it sells nationwide come from cage-free chickens by 2025. The company operates over 3,400 supermarkets and convenience stores nationwide under two dozen local banner names, including Kroger, Harris Teeter, Ralphs, City Market, and Dillons.

100% cage-free policies

Kroger competitors, Albertson's, the country's second-largest grocery chain with more than 2,200 locations, and Delhaize, another major grocery chain the operates the Hannaford and Food Lion chains also announced 100% cage-free policies, as have dozens of other major food companies.

"We take our commitment to providing responsibly sourced products seriously, and that responsibility extends naturally into ensuring our suppliers uphold humane animal welfare practices," said Shane Sampson, chief marketing & merchandising officer, Albertson. "The transition to cage-free eggs will help us continue to provide a great, humane product to our customers while ensuring that our suppliers have ample time to prepare their operations to meet increased demand from retailers."

Kraft Heinz sauces to use cage-free eggs

Kraft Heinz Company is another major food manufacturer to announce that it will transition to using 100% cage-free eggs in all North American operations by 2025. Kraft Heinz sources eggs in North America primarily for use within its sauces portfolio including for brands like Miracle Whip, Heinz Mayo and Kraft Salad Dressings. The company defines cage-free eggs as those laid by hens allowed to walk, nest and engage in other behaviours in an open area.

"Consumers have growing interest in responsible supply chain practices, and with Kraft Heinz products in over 98% of North American households, we're committed to having an ongoing dialogue on the things that matter most to them," said Michael Mullen, senior vice president of corporate and government affairs, The Kraft Heinz Company.
Another food manufacturer, The Schwan Food Company announced plans to switch its supply chain to 100% cage-free eggs by the end of 2020. "We are excited to have developed a clear path toward making our cage-free transition. As a frozen-food leader, we are committed to reviewing and working with our supply chain to ensure completion of this work as a part of our overall corporate responsibility commitment," said Dimitrios Smyrnios, CEO of The Schwan Food Company.

Egg suppliers informed of changing demands

US food outlets/retailers including Costco, Trader Joe's, Dunkin' Donuts, Taco Bell, McDonald's, and Mondelez have all informed egg suppliers of their cage-free demands over the past few months.

As of September 2015, organic and cage-free shell egg production accounted for 8.7% of the current table egg layer flock (23.6 million hens). Of this, 4.2% are organic (11.4 million hens) and 4.5% are cage-free (12.2 million hens), according to data from the United Egg Producers.

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