Pretty soon, cage-free eggs might be a tautology: Costco, the second-largest retail grocery store in the world, is slated to become the first mainstream grocery retailer to commit to selling only cage-free eggs. Costco follows in the footsteps of several chain restaurants announcing similar moves this year, increasing hopes for those committed to a cage-free egg supply for a radical move away from battery cages throughout the industry.
Costco's decision to go 100 percent cage-free has been ongoing for nearly a decade. According to the Costco website, it has increased its cage-free egg supply from 2 percent in 2006 to 26 percent in 2015, and in 2016, the goal is to increase that even more.
If Costco is having trouble making the switch immediately, it is in large part due to a lack of cage-free eggs in the supply. “Currently over 90 percent of the supply of eggs is from caged hens,” according to the company’s website. Other retailers and restaurants "are also moving to cage-free requirements, placing greater demands on the limited supply.”
These other big name food companies and retailers include Nestlé, Starbucks, and Panera, all of which have committed to switching to cage-free eggs by 2020. Both Subway and McDonald’s intend to switch to cage-free eggs by 2025. Taco Bell has self-imposed an even more aggressive deadline, with a goal of switching to cage-free eggs by 2016.
If demand continues to increase in this way, the industry will be forced to change, according to David Coman-Hidy, executive director at the animal welfare nonprofit, The Humane League. “These commitments from players like McDonald’s or Nestlé are really more about signaling to the egg industry that it’s time to retrofit all the barns and switch over production to cage-free eggs,” Coman-Hidy told the Huffington Post.
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Currently, over 90 percent of the 300 million egg-laying hens in the U.S. are kept in battery cages. According to industry group United Egg Producers, just 4.5 percent of the nearly 7.5 billion eggs produced in the country in September came from cage-free hens.
This is not the first time that Costco has made a decision in-line with those fighting for a more humane and natural food supply. In November, the warehouse chain announced its commitment to refuse to sell GMO salmon in its stores.
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Costco image via Shutterstock