Ron Shaich, Panera CEO, recently wrote an open letter to customers, saying, "Consumers are demanding more of the companies that feed them." This is true. Sixty-seven percent of shoppers consider animal welfare in their food purchasing decisions, with 42 percent doing more today than just five years ago. Restaurants evaluating the future direction of food should also take note that a whopping 83 percent of millennials take animal welfare into account when making food purchasing decisions. In addition, a 2015 Food Marketing Institute survey found that animal welfare is the second most important consideration for shoppers, scoring higher than environmental sustainability.
The landscape of egg production has shifted drastically in the last several years. Many of the largest food businesses in the US, such as McDonald's, Starbucks, General Mills, and Aramark, have already responded to the public's outcry for better treatment of hens and have committed to sourcing 100 percent cage-free eggs within the next five to 10 years. These commitments must be followed with action and transparency on progress, but a public commitment is the vital first step in a long process of change.