In a significant victory for farm animals, Panera Bread today announced the significant progress the company has made this year to house the animals in its U.S. supply chain more humanely. Panera Bread's actions in 2014 include sourcing 18% of the more than 70 million eggs the company served from cage-free hens and sourcing more than 80 percent of its beef from grass-fed cows. Panera also announced that as of 2015, it expects to have phased out the use of gestation crates for pregnant sows completely. These actions all have a huge positive impact on the lives of thousands of farm animals. They also send a resounding message to other major food businesses that prioritizing animal welfare is critical to achieving real sustainability.
The extreme confinement of hens, sows, and cows are among the cruelest practices in modern farming. Laying hens in battery cages, for example, are usually kept in small battery cages that they share with five to seven other hens. They can't express natural behaviors like fully stretching their wings, and research shows that these hens are at a higher risk of stress, injury and Salmonella infection. Nearly all laying hens in North America – more than 300 million -- are currently housed this way. And their suffering is completely needless.
But the good news is that everyone, from businesses to consumers, can make a difference for hens simply by choosing cage-free eggs whenever they buy eggs. By choosing high-welfare food options every time we shop, we tell food companies that the welfare of animals is at the top of our minds when we choose which brands to buy.
Panera has long been a food industry leader, taking important steps to help customers making healthier dining choices. It was one of the first restaurant chains to voluntarily post calorie information at all of its locations. The company also pledged to remove all artificial additives from its menu items by 2016. And with this extensive recent progress to improve animal welfare practices, Panera Bread is again at the forefront of positive industry change. And thankfully, it's part of a growing movement, with more and more restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses now choosing cage-free eggs. 2015 will also see a significant victory for hens when California's new law requiring that all eggs sold there come from hens with enough space to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.
At World Animal Protection, we're grateful to Panera Bread for speaking with us and for taking our research on the growing consumer demand for cage-free eggs into account as it made this important decision. As 2014 winds down, let's take a moment to appreciate all of the tremendous progress for animals made this year – and also to recognize that this is only the beginning of the changes we must make for them. In 2015 and the years to come, we'll continue working to improve the lives of farm animals.
Photo Credit: World Animal Protection/i.c.productions