The largest foodservice distributor in the world, Sysco Corporation, announced this week they will commit to sourcing 100 percent cage-free eggs in the United States by 2026. The company will be the first of its size to do so, and they hope others will follow their lead.
Last year, Sysco profited $48.7 billion in global sales with a variety of clients including restaurants like McDonald's, hospitals, and hospitality businesses. The Humane League approached Sysco and helped initiate this ten-year cage-free journey. This new policy joins another animal welfare policy Sysco already has in place to eliminate gestation crates for sows.
"This new commitment builds on the company's longstanding practice to demand high standards in the humane treatment of animals sourced for its Sysco brand products," the company said in a statement. "Since 2004, all Sysco brand shell egg suppliers have been certified by the United Egg Producers (UEP) Animal Husbandry Guidelines and also undergo annual animal welfare audits."
What exactly does the label cage-free mean? Right now, most conventional eggs, whether they're bought in grocery stores or served in hotels, come from hens locked in small battery cages. These hens have limited ability to spread their wings, walk, or develop. Most hens will never see any daylight from these dim cages.
A cage-free label indicates the hens were able to walk, spread their wings, and lay their eggs in nests. This allows for a more natural growth process for the hen. The cage-free label isn't without its detractors, however. Many cage-free hens, despite their ability to roam, never go outside. Ultimately, the cage-free solution will not only reduce suffering for the hens but also will be the most realistic first step as Sysco begins to change the way their company sources food.
Just this one step on Sysco’s part will create major change for the whole national food chain as this impacts thousands of Sysco’s clients. Sysco also hopes that during this ten-year process, more collaboration between humane societies and food industry players will begin, in addition to more conversations regarding food cost and animal welfare causes.
It may be ten years from now, but this announcement is a big step in the right direction for global animal welfare and sustainable food causes.