WALMART TO GO CAGE-FREE ON EGGS; CLAIMS MOVE IS AIMED AT "AFFORDABILITY FOR CONSUMERS"
Late Tuesday, the world’s largest grocery chain threw in with the cage-free egg movement.
Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. announced that they plan to transition to a 100% cage-free egg supply by 2025. This move is unsurprising considering many of their competitors have already caved in to pressure from Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other groups to go cage-free on eggs.
In a statement, Walmart’s chief sustainability officer Kathleen McLaughlin had this to say about the company’s transition:
“Our customers and associates count on Walmart and Sam’s Club to deliver on affordability and quality, while at the same time offering transparency into how their food is grown and raised. Our commitment to transition to a cage-free egg supply chain recognizes that expectation and represents another step we are taking to improve transparency for food we sell in our U.S. stores and clubs.”
Walmart’s claim to deliver on affordability and quality is questionable, however, considering the move to cage-free eggs addresses neither of those issues. T
his is exemplified no better than in California. At the beginning of 2015, the state’s Proposition 2 and AB 1437 went into effect. These laws require egg farmers in the state, and any out-of-state farmers that sell eggs in California, to increase the size of cages in which egg-laying hens are raised. These so-called “enriched cages” nearly double the required amount of space for the hens.
Since that time, egg prices have soared. In fact, last summer it was reported that prices spiked over 70 percent, forcing many people to go without eggs. Producer cannot afford to upend their operations so drastically, which is why many of these companies are giving such loose timelines on when they would fully adopt cage-free egg supplies. They know that it is an unrealistic approach, and cage-free is much more difficult a transition than “enriched cages”.
Keep in mind: many feel that these systems do not keep hens safer; in fact, they are often put in greater danger. One study found that mortality rates for hens are much higher in cage-free environments due to a variety of factors, including hens pecking at each other, cannibalization, increased risk of disease, and attacks from predators.
The cage-free movement is then rendered meaningless. The hens are not safer, and thus they won’t produce higher quality eggs. Neither the egg quality nor egg affordability is positively affected by these transitions, yet companies continue to join the bandwagon. Why is that?
The answer, plain and simple, is a blind grab at profits. These companies have never shown this level of care for animal welfare until recently, and that was only when animal rights groups began making strides in influencing business leaders. HSUS has promised them that if they make the switch, their profits will increase as the “humane economy” shifts our country to a more vegan lifestyle and consumers demand these options.
The average consumer isn’t asking for this, though. Americans are looking for affordable options at the grocery store, and the cage-free egg movement is in direct opposition to that. By forcing producers to completely change how they do business, prices on eggs go up dramatically. That cost is then passed on to consumers. This is as simple as it gets.
Walmart has always prided itself on its low prices for its customers, but this new “commitment” by the world’s leading grocer doesn’t save customers money. It costs them money, and the true victor here is HSUS, who gains another ally in its long-term battle against farmers and ranchers.