Nestlé, the world’s largest food manufacturer, is rounding out 2015 with a major announcement about its supply chain. The multinational megacorporation says it will shift to using only cage-free eggs in its U.S. food products by 2020.
According to the company, Nestlé uses about 20 million pounds of eggs each year in a range of brands that include Lean Cuisine, Buitoni pasta, and Stouffer’s.
“The move comes as packaged-food makers and restaurant chains face increasing pressure from animal-rights activists and consumer groups to improve treatment of animals that supply meat, eggs and other foods,” reports the Wall Street Journal. The industry standard for egg-laying hens in recent decades has been keeping them in cramped battery cages so small a hen cannot spread both wings at the same time.
“Nestlé continues to show industry leadership on animal welfare,” Nathan Runkle, president of animal rights group Mercy for Animals said in a statement. “The company has taken yet another significant step forward in improving the lives of farmed animals around the globe.
“Nestlé’s expansive cage-free egg commitment will reduce the suffering of millions of hens each year and hopefully inspire other food companies to do the same.”
Other major food producers have also made cage-free egg commitments. General Mills and Kellogg Co. set time-frames for 2025. McDonald’s set a a similar timeline for transitioning its annual use of about 2 billion eggs to cage-free. Most recently Taco Bell’s parent company Yum Brands Inc., said it would make the shift too, with a much more aspirational timeline than its competitors.
“It’s high time the rest of the food industry, including Tim Hortons and Mondelez, acknowledged that cramming birds into cages barely larger than their bodies is inhumane and unethical,” said Runkle. “With Nestlé’s announcement, it’s never been clearer that the days are numbered for egg factory farmers who pack birds in cages so small they can’t walk, spread their wings, or engage in other natural behaviors.”
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Caged chicken image via Shutterstock