Compassion in World Farming has launched the EggTrack 2023 report detailing measures taken by leading global food companies last year to meet their voluntary commitments on cage-free egg production for laying hens.
With food companies, consumer sentiment and robust scientific evidence supporting a cage-free future, Compassion urges policy makers to get on board and introduce legislation to underpin the end of cages. This plea is particularly pertinent to the European Union as the European Commission is yet to deliver its promised ban on the use of cages for farmed animals, a measure supported by 9 out of 10 European citizens.
EggTrack 2023 indicates food companies are focused on providing a cage-free life for egg-laying hens, despite the ongoing challenges from avian influenza, inflation and the war in Ukraine, but without their actions being reinforced by legislators, there can’t be a final eradication of cages.
Any legislation might align with consumer attitudes, as demonstrated by the 1.4 million EU citizens who signed the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens Initiative in 2020, and the 2023 Eurobarometer in which 91% of Europeans believe that protecting the welfare of farmed animals is important, with 84% saying these animals should be better protected than they are currently. Much of the scientific community also supports the end of cages as is evident in a series of EFSA opinions.
EggTrack is designed to monitor, track and encourage the successful voluntary transition to cage-free of the world’s largest food businesses, as clearly the real impact for laying hens comes only when companies progress with their transition and actually fulfil their commitments.
In 2023, 444 companies were monitored by EggTrack. Between them they have made 715 cage-free commitments of which 511 (71%) are reporting progress, with an average 75% transition to cage-free eggs.
At a regional level, the average transition to cage-free eggs in Europe was 80%, in the USA it was 73% and in the APAC region, which only began to be monitored in the 2022 EggTrack, an average transition rate of 57% was achieved. Despite the average overall year-on-year transition falling by 2.5% for commitments tracked in both the 2022 and 2023 iterations of EggTrack, cage-free transition at a global level increased by 6.9%, and 7.4% for companies in the APAC region.
Nine companies made new global cage-free commitments: Associated British Foods PLC, Bakkavor Group PLC, Brinker International Inc, CKE Restaurants Holdings Inc, Dairy Queen, Delaware North, McCormick & Company, Norwegian Cruise Line and The JM Smucker Company.
Delaware North has been working with Compassion in World Farming since 2022, when the company recognized that there was more it might do to progress its cage-free commitment.
Debbie Friedel, Director of Sustainability at Delaware North, says: “Delaware North has been working with Compassion in World Farming since 2022, when the company recognized that there was more it might do to progress its cage-free commitment.
“Product availability and supply chain disruptions can present a real challenge to meeting our animal welfare commitments. Through consistent communication and feedback, we have benefitted greatly from CIWF’s knowledge and expertise as we transition to 100% cage-free eggs by 2025.”
This year, eight companies reached their goal of being cage free at either global, regional or national level: The Hershey Company (who achieved global cage-free status), LJ Fairburn & Son Ltd (UK), Gruppo Eurovo (Italy), KFC (Europe), Kraft Heinz Company, CVS, Walgreens (USA) and Burger King (Australia & New Zealand).
Of the 444 companies included in EggTrack 2023, 79 operate globally, 274 operate in Europe (including the UK), 134 companies operate in the USA and 23 operate in APAC. They straddle all sectors with 51 manufacturers, 195 retailers & meal kit providers, 111 restaurants, 13 producers and 74 food service and hospitality companies represented.
Compassion urges companies to be 100 per cent cage free throughout their global supply. That means their commitments should cover ALL regions in which they operate and include ALL egg categories such as shell eggs, egg products AND egg ingredients. The good news is that more companies are expanding their commitments and increasingly reporting across all egg categories this year. Companies should also avoid investing in inadequate cage-free systems such as combination and limited access systems. This year, 21 companies have clear statements against the use of combination systems within their supply chain including Domino’s Pizza Group PLC (UK and IRL), Bidfood (UK), E.Leclerc and Mercadona.
The progression demonstrated by food businesses reflect consumer concerns for animal welfare and with extensive scientific evidence backing the need for cage-free production, it’s now time for policy makers to reinforce and support the positive action the food industry is taking.
The voluntary commitments and continued progress highlighted throughout this report clearly demonstrate that food companies are focused on providing a cage-free future for egg-laying hens.
Dr Tracey Jones, Global Director of Food Business, Compassion in World Farming, says: “The voluntary commitments and continued progress highlighted throughout this report clearly demonstrate that food companies are focused on providing a cage-free future for egg-laying hens.
Cages are unwanted by consumers, 1.4 million of whom signed the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens Initiative submitted in 2020, resulting in the European Commission committing to ban cages for all farmed animals by 2027.
Europe holds a unique opportunity to lead the way on animal welfare. By responding to its citizens with a ban on cages and supporting businesses in their transition, the European Commission has a momentous opportunity to create a level playing field across industry and send a strong message to the rest of the world that cages should be consigned to the history books for good.
“Europe holds a unique opportunity to lead the way on animal welfare. By responding to its citizens with a ban on cages and supporting businesses in their transition, the European Commission has a momentous opportunity to create a level playing field across industry and send a strong message to the rest of the world that cages should be consigned to the history books for good.”