Compass Group makes it a trifecta.
Today, Compass Group, the world's largest food service company, announced that it will switch all of its liquid eggs to cage-free for the entire US market. The volume of product in play is extraordinary: 300 million liquid eggs. That will move more than one million hens from cages into cage-free environments, once the transition is complete by 2019.
Back in 2007, Compass was the first major food service operator to take a stand against confining chickens in cages when it pledged to source all of its shell eggs - now totaling nearly 100 million eggs a year - from cage-free systems. It later created policies with its pork suppliers to end the lifelong confinement of sows in cages, and launched its "Be A Flexitarian" initiative encouraging its customers to try more plant-based meals.
It's an understatement to say it's been an epic past two weeks for egg-laying chickens. First, Sodexo, the world's second largest food service company, committed to switching all of its 220 million liquid eggs annually to cage-free, on top of its prior commitment to switch to cage-free for the 39 million shell (whole) eggs it uses each year. Then Aramark, the largest US-based food service company, announced that it's switching all of the 200 million eggs it uses every year for its liquid egg products to cage-free, and completing its cage-free switch of the 30 million shell eggs it uses annually by the end of this year.
The Compass Group announcement completes a run on the three biggest companies in food service all going cage-free - and it's especially significant because each of these companies is bringing its liquid-egg purchasing into the equation (each company buys more eggs in liquid form than whole eggs in the shell).
With the three largest food service companies eliminating eggs from caged chickens, the total impact is almost a billion eggs a year. That translates into 3.5 million fewer chickens enduring lives locked inside cages.
The message to the rest of the food retail sector and also to the egg industry is clear. The era of confining hens in cages is on the way out. Forward-thinking food companies are going cage-free, and it's time for the rest to get on board.