Today, with Sodexo, we are announcing that the giant food service company has committed, over the next five years, to switch all 20 million pounds of its liquid eggs to cage-free. The company manages dining operations at thousands of colleges, universities, hospitals, and corporate dining centers across the country. Due to its enormous size, this will remove 750,000 hens from battery cages per year and put them into cage-free settings. This announcement comes after prior announcements from the company to switch to cage-free for its 39 million shell eggs – which provides a better living for an additional 150,000 birds.
When I talk about the humane economy, I refer to companies doing good for animals while also doing good for their bottom line. The Sodexo announcement fits into this framework – making improvements in its supply chain that show its customers that it cares about shared values. In turn, its customers reward the company with greater loyalty and support.
The only announcements in the food sector to affect this number of animals or more came from Burger King and Unilever's (Hellman's) cage-free commitments, and from Whole Foods Market's precedent-setting animal welfare policy, which says that its animal products will eventually be certified under the standards of the Global Animal Partnership. (Whole Foods is the largest buyer of GAP products, and nearly 300 million farm animals are already covered under this certification program).
Sodexo's action is noteworthy not only because of its scale, but also its timing. Within the last six months, we've seen major announcements from Nestlé, Heinz, and Starbucks on the farm animal protection front, including a move away from battery cages.
Sodexo's updated animal welfare policy covers other issues as well. Within two years, all its veal will come from operations that have abandoned cruel crates. It is reinforcing its previous pledge to eliminate gestation crates within the next seven years. And it is also taking on painful procedures typically done without pain relief, such as castration, tail docking, and dehorning.
I'm a firm believer that corporations have so much untapped power to do good for animals. Sodexo's staff believed they have a duty to honor animal welfare values, and they are making good on that by making dramatic changes in their procurement practices. We hope their stellar work inspires others, whether in the food or fashion or scientific sectors of the economy, to make good decisions when it comes to the treatment of animals.