Sodexo switches to cage-free eggs

Nichole Davila-Sanchez, ‘Doah Staff Writer
March 4, 2015

On Feb. 19, the Humane Society of the United States’ website released an article by Wayne Pacelle, stating that Sodexo will be switching from battery cage eggs to cage-free; this method improves the living conditions for about 900,000 hens. Most eggs in the U.S. come from hens in battery cages, which means they are tightly packed together each day in small cages that are usually stacked from floor to ceiling in warehouse-like locations. This kind of living condition eventually destroys the physical appearance and mental status of these flightless birds. Many of the residing hens spend the rest of their lives in this cage unable to even stretch their wings or practice behavioral necessities like pecking the ground. A study in Great Britain showed that chickens are emotionally intelligent and can feel the pain of their co-species. This ability allows the hens to be attentive mothers; however, this ability is not used by hens in battery cages because they cannot roost or to tend to their chicks.

So the big question is, does the welfare of the hens improve when they are cage-free? Not necessarily because chickens are social creatures and require their flock. Behaviors within the flock depend on the size of the group so smaller flocks are more laid back than larger groups mostly likely because the pecking order is less competitive. However it should be said that hens residing in battery cages suffer from feather loss, depression and cut feet from constantly standing on wire, to name a few. This phenomenon in the farming community could be considered the animal equivalent of the slave ships used during the colonial era to transport captured Africans to North America.

In light of this cruelty, much of Europe has passed bans on the use of battery cages since 2011. Sodexo, which was established in France, is continuing the movement by bringing this wave of change to its consumers across the Atlantic Ocean. It should be noted that Sodexo is not the only company in the United States that is jumping aboard the humane economy bandwagon: Starbucks, Unilever’s, Whole Food Markets, Burger King, Nestlé and Heinz are also moving away from battery cages.

Sodexo has decided to help pioneer the change to follow the standards of The Global Animal Partnership, which is an advocate for animal rights. If we were appalled by the brutality shown, then why shouldn’t we be appalled by it now? Abuse takes many forms, and it is our duty as citizens of the United States of America to fight any injustice we see on our own soil. Jeremy Bentham once said, “The question is not, ‘Can they reason?’ nor, ‘Can they talk?’ but ‘Can they suffer?’”

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