6 min read

Change for hens: how Nestlé’s cage-free commitment will have a truly global impact on animal welfare

<p> World Animal Protection/i.c. productions </p>

With 70 billion animals farmed for food annually, poor animal welfare as a result of industrial farming cannot be ignored. Only through global, large-scale changes within the food industry itself can we bring about a better life for farm animals. World Animal Protection is working to do exactly that.

Take egg-laying hens, for example: picture yourself as an unhatched female chick, ready to enter the world. You've spent around 20 days cocooned in your egg, warm and safe. After hours of patient chipping at the tough shell that's kept you alive for the last few weeks, you finally break free. But if you're one of the unlucky ones, your next home is a cramped cage, in which you'll spend your whole life laying eggs for the world's dining tables. This is the sad reality for billions of chicks every year.

Thankfully, this story often has a happier ending these days. For egg-laying chicks, we are moving slowly but surely to a "post-cage" era. Nestlé, the world's largest food company, today announced they will use only cage-free eggs in all U.S. products within the next five years. This move means that ultimately millions of hens will have better lives every year, living free of cages.

When multinational corporations such as Nestlé make a change to their supply chain, the effects can be truly profound, improving the lives of billions of farm animals. The food giant joins a growing group of major food companies – including Panera Bread,Taco Bell and McDonald's – that now recognize a cage is no place for a hen.

World Animal Protection has been working closely with Nestlé since 2014 to help the company ensure the highest possible levels of welfare for the animals it rears for food. Our goal isn't simply to meet government standards, which, depending on the country, can be poor or, in the worst cases, non-existent. It's about innovating to meet public demand for sustenance without the animal suffering that has become commonplace in so many industrial farming systems.

Like any successful relationship, our partnership with Nestlé is based on mutual respect and honesty. We understand that Nestlé is a complex, global business operating in a complex, global environment; change won't happen overnight. And Nestlé understands that we are devoted to protecting all animals and ensuring that they have good lives.

The animal welfare movement is passionate one, and not always known for its desire to partner with "big business". This is understandable. For too long, the corporate sector (as well as other sectors) has at times seemed blind to the importance of including animal protection as a core business concern, instead moving at glacial speed to meet the minimum standards set by legislation. But we have a clear model for creating global change for animals, and that is to tackle animal welfare issues at a systemic level rather than trying to solve just one piece of the puzzle. It's why we work with businesses and other influential stakeholders who are as much a part of the solution as the challenge, if not more.

Changing the world doesn't come easily, but our work is improving the lives of many of the world's farm animals.

World Animal Protection works to protect hens and all animals in agriculture. Read more about how we are supporting the billions of farm animals in global food production.