Caging egg-laying hens is widely regarded as one of the worst-of-the-worst factory farming practices. Fortunately, companies and consumers alike are driving a market shift to 100% cage-free eggs. With EggTrack, a tool by Compassion in World Farming, we will achieve a cage-free future, together.
What is EggTrack?
Virtually all the top food companies have committed to going 100% cage-free in the US or Europe—transitioning supply chains to source eggs only from cage-free hens by 2026 or sooner—and some have taken these commitments global. Together, these animal welfare commitments in the US, Europe, and across the world will impact the lives of billions of egg-laying hens.
As an animal protection organization laser-focused on ending factory farming, Compassion in World Farming is here to ensure that these commitments are successfully met—on or ahead of schedule.
That’s why we created EggTrack, an innovative tool to track company progress towards their 100% cage-free goals. EggTrack is designed to:
Ensure food companies can and will stick to their cage-free egg commitments;
Encourage transparency in the marketplace; and
Assist food companies during their transition to a 100% cage-free egg supply.
“For the first time, we are providing a true birds-eye view of the global egg market, combining our regional European and United States reports and expanding our scope to track the progress of 25 companies with cage-free commitments for their global supply chains. It is no small feat to convert production across Europe and the United States, and thanks to both corporate leaders and consumers, both regions have made significant progress towards a cage-free future for laying hens…This year, as we commend the global leaders forging progress throughout the world, we also look to those that have yet to create a meaningful baseline across the remainder of their global operations and ask them to meet the urgency of the moment. In such a momentous effort, we will only be successful if we move forward together.”
Our fourth annual EggTrack report provides the first snapshot of global cage-free progress—and reveals that many food companies are continuing to make measurable progress towards their 100% cage-free goals and report transparently on their cage-free status, despite the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In these turbulent times, accountability and transparency have never been more paramount. The food industry has reached a crucial turning point on its cage-free journey, as evidenced by the highlights from our 2020 report:
Demand for cage-free eggs is growing globally: Corporate demand for cage-free eggs is no longer limited to European and North American markets: Since 2016, the number of companies with global cage-free commitments has grown from five to at least 37. This list includes global giants like Unilever, Nestlé, Grupo Bimbo, Compass Group, Aldi Nord, and Aldi Sud. However, global commitments are largely limited to the manufacturer, food service, and hospitality sectors.
Companies and producers continue to make and report on progress, despite impacts of COVID-19: While the onset of a global pandemic increased pressure on supply chains and forced companies to confront unprecedented challenges—from product shortages to personnel management—it is encouraging to see them remain committed to animal welfare targets. COVID-19 may have impacted companies’ capacity to make strides against commitments in Q1 and Q2 of 2020, but for most, it has not been a reason to backtrack or fail to report on standing commitments. This resolve is demonstrated in this year’s EggTrack report, which shows that many companies are continuing to update cage-free progress for 2020, whether significant progress has been made or not.
This year saw more companies reporting and the quality of reporting improve:
There were 210 companies included in EggTrack this year – 80 operate globally, 57 operate only in North America or the United States, and 73 operate only in Europe. Of those, 134 (63%) reported progress against their commitments.
Since last year, nine companies – CKE Restaurants, Krispy Kreme Donuts, Paluani, Continental Foods, Asda, IGA restaurants, Pret a Manger, IKEA, and B.GOOD – had whole or regional commitments that can no longer be found in the public domain. Burger King retracted their European commitment.
Of those tracked, six companies – Pret a Manger, Balocco, Paluani, Sammonata, Hy-Vee Market Grille, and The Fresh Market – have missed their commitment deadlines and are not reporting progress against them.
Of the 25 companies with global commitments tracked this year, 14 (56%) reported progress against these commitments.
Barilla is the only global company to have met its global cage-free commitment, which it did in 2019.
Of the 117 companies with US or North American commitments (as part of a global or regional commitment), 59 companies reported progress (50%).
Six companies reported meeting US commitments this past year.
Sixteen companies reported progress for the first time this year.
Of the 99 companies with European commitments (as part of a global or regional commitment), 77 companies reported European progress (77%).
Twenty companies reported meeting European commitments this past year.
A total of 17 companies reported progress for the first time this year.
Awareness of and investment in true cage-free systems is critical: As producers and companies expand cage-free production and purchasing, they must also invest in well-designed systems that are fit for purpose and fit for future. Companies should be aware of and avoid highly-intensive systems that compromise bird welfare and subvert consumer expectations, such as combination and limited access systems, that can look and effectively operate like their caged predecessors.
With rising consumer demand, ongoing company progress, and states across the country signing bans on eggs from caged hens, cage-free is fast becoming the industry baseline. As the world moves towards a 100% cage-free future, Compassion looks forward to our continued work with companies, producers, and industry stakeholders to improve the lives of billions of laying hens.
It has never been clearer that the future of egg production will be—and must be—cage-free. Laying hens housed in cages, whether they are battery or newer “enriched” models, have inherently lower welfare potential since these systems physically confine birds, restricting their expression of highly-motivated basic behaviors and leading to poor physical and psychological health, frustration, pain, and fear.
Alternatively, well-designed and well-managed cage-free housing allows hens to express natural behaviors and ensures egg production systems better meet the behavioral, physical, and psychological needs of laying hens. This year’s EggTrack report shows that while progress has been made towards building these better systems, there is still considerable work to be done, especially as we expand our view to a global scale.
The challenges ahead can only be tackled with clear communication and mutual investment from both producers and purchasers. Building up the supply of cage-free eggs that will be needed to meet demand in 2025 will take time and resources, from planning to construction and retrofitting. For producers to build the infrastructure and supply necessary, they must have clear expectations and willingness to invest from their customers. Producers’ timelines should be incorporated into purchasers’ timelines and sourcing plans from the beginning.
Clear communication should also include open dialogue about the types of systems being used and standards in place to ensure improved welfare for laying hens. In cases where combination or limited access systems are being used, steps should be taken by producer, purchaser, and equipment manufacturers to invest in the improvements outlined in this report. In other cases, where cage-free markets are still emerging, producers and purchasers have an important opportunity to avoid making risky investments into combination cages and can instead future-proof their supply chains by investing in a truly cage-free systems.
As key stakeholders continue to monitor the delivery and management of animal welfare commitments, EggTrack will continue to identify industry leaders, as well as those lagging in transparently reporting their progress. As the market continues to make this shift and as the demand for transparency continues to increase, we encourage companies to integrate annual progress reporting into their broader reporting procedures and disclose this information for all farmed animal welfare commitments relevant to their business. We will continue to follow up with both the reporting and non-reporting companies to ensure we reach a 100% cage-free future and eliminate one of the worst-of-the-worst factory farming practices.
Fund the Tracker
You can keep this tool running by donating to Compassion in World Farming, the organization making sure food businesses can and will stick to their animal welfare commitments through transparent progress reports.
Help fund EggTrack and Compassion’s ongoing work to improve the lives of farm animals!