A decade ago, Whole Foods was the only major food seller with 100 percent cage-free eggs, and Bon Appétit Management Company was the only food service company to take on the issue. Today, the five largest food service companies (Compass Group, Aramark, Sodexo, Delaware North, and Centerplate) all have timelines to switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs, and most of them made or fortified their announcements in 2015. Unilever (maker of Hellmann's/Best Foods) is going 100 percent cage-free by 2020. Burger King is switching to 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2017. And McDonald's - which buys nearly four percent of all eggs in the country - announced this month that it's switching all of the two billion eggs it uses annually to cage-free within 10 years. The world's biggest food retailer, Walmart, has pledged to honor the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare and shift away from battery cages.
When I started an animal advocacy group at Yale in the mid-1980s, confronting factory farming as a moral imperative, it seemed an immovable mountain. Industrial agriculture interests were entrenched and able to fend off maneuvers from a poorly organized animal protection movement, corporations in the food retail sector were inattentive to these concerns, and consumers were largely in the dark.