In a statement released Tuesday, multinational food corporation General Mills says it’s working with its suppliers towards adopting a number of progressive humane animal treatment policies, including a move towards exclusively using cage-free eggs across its more than 89 brands. The company claims a commitment to addressing animal welfare issues as the motivation.
On the company’s website, General Mills outlined “five freedoms” for animals which it believes can have a major impact on its supply chain and all the livestock animals it uses for its food products. “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,” the company said.
The five freedoms, which were also recently embraced by Walmart, are considered the core concepts of animal welfare. They include:
- Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition.
- Freedom from discomfort.
- Freedom from pain, injury and disease.
- Freedom from fear and distress.
- Freedom to engage in normal patterns of animal behavior.
In particular, General Mills said sourcing cage-free eggs is a large focus because eggs are “an important ingredient in many of our products,” in brands including Pillsbury, Betty Crocker and Progresso soups; and the company says it is taking steps to “ensure that the hens laying these eggs are treated humanely.” General Mills’ ice cream brand Häagen-Dazs already sources 100 percent free-range eggs for its products.
“Common sense and sound science tell us that warehousing animals in cramped cages is bad for both the animals and for us,” Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a blog post. “And now, with many food companies like General Mills pledging to eliminate chicken cages from their egg supplier chains, the egg industry can accelerate its own shift toward cage-free housing. For the sake of animals and consumers, it can’t happen fast enough.”
While General Mills did not outline a timeline for its shift to 100 percent cage-free eggs, it says that’s the goal for the company and its suppliers: “We commit to working toward 100 percent cage-free eggs for our U.S. operations. We recognize that the current avian influenza outbreak has been deeply disruptive to the U.S. egg supply and producers. As the industry works to rebuild its supply chain, we will work with suppliers to determine a path and reasonable timeline toward this commitment.”
In 2013, General Mills received praise from animal rights groups when it made a four-year commitment to move away from gestation crates, small cages used to house pregnant sows. The company also made headlines recently when it announced plans to pull artificial colors and flavors from its popular breakfast cereals.
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Eggs image via Shutterstock