According to ChickenWatch.org, the first cage-free egg commitment dates back to 1990 in the United States, when MOM’s Organic Market, a small grocery company that currently has 16 stores, promised to remove cages from its egg supply chain. And the first commitments to reducing suffering for chickens raised for meat date back to 2016, when companies such as Compass Group and Aramark declared that they would meet or exceed the standards of the Better Chicken Commitment in their U.S. operations by 2024.
Since then, thousands of restaurants, grocery stores, and other food companies have pledged to reduce suffering in their supply chains by adopting meaningful animal welfare standards.
Around the world, more than 80% of chickens exploited for eggs are kept in crowded metal cages, unable to spread their wings, stand on solid ground, or perform many essential behaviors. And the situation for chickens in the meat industry is no better. These birds are bred to grow so large so fast that their bodies often can’t support their weight. Many become unable to stand or walk to reach food and water. The birds’ litter is rarely changed, and many suffer from burns on their bellies from lying on waste-covered floors.
The vast majority of consumers find these conditions unacceptable.
Committing to reducing the suffering of these animals is an important first step for giant food companies, but these promises are meaningless without action. Are companies following through on their word?
The only way for companies to reduce suffering for animals in their supply chains is to act on their commitments, not simply announce them.
Studies show that Generation Z is a model for future consumption trends, and their purchasing power is increasing. These young folks will make up an estimated 27% of the workforce in 2025. Gen Z is also the first generation to grow up in the digital world and is the one that spends the most time on the internet.
According to marketing specialist Matt Britton, Gen Z wants to know what brands stand for, so being truthful about ideals is crucial for companies. And how can consumers be certain that a company stands behind its promises and ideals if it does not transparently share the progress it has made on its commitments?
Investors’ increasing interest in animal welfare is another important factor motivating companies to be transparent about their commitments. It is a key metric of the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, which demonstrates global trends among a range of stakeholders.
United, We Are Stronger
The Open Wing Alliance coalition, made up of more than 90 organizations from various countries, including Mercy For Animals, promotes transparency as a fundamental principle in corporate commitments.
Recently, the alliance launched a cage-free accountability report highlighting which food companies have global cage-free commitments and the progress they’ve reported on meeting their welfare goals.
Companies like Papa John’s and IKEA are leading the way, working to keep their promises and reporting progress toward their goals. Although the majority of companies are following through so far, some of the world’s most powerful brands are still being cagey about their cage-free and chicken welfare commitments and underperforming on animal welfare. Despite feedback from their customers and stakeholders, many companies, such as Shake Shack, Au Bon Pain, and Focus Brands, are refusing to address cruelty in their supply chains and demonstrating a concerning lack of transparency.
📢 Take Action Today
While the best way to help animals is to leave them off our plates, cage-free and chicken welfare commitments are a big step in the right direction. They have the potential to greatly reduce suffering for millions of animals a year. Here are two ways you can make a difference for birds suffering in the egg and meat industries:
- Email Shake Shack, and tell them that consumers want updates about the company’s progress on converting to a cage-free egg supply across its global operations.
- Sign Open Wing Alliance’s petition asking Focus Brands (the parent company of Cinnabon, Jamba, Auntie Anne’s, and others), Inspire Brands (the parent company of Dunkin’, Sonic Drive-In, and others), and Au Bon Pain to report progress on their cage-free egg promises.