A recent survey shows that many restaurants have yet to buy cage-free eggs.
Credit: Getty: panom

Back in 2016, we were excited to report that Sysco Corporation, the United States' largest food distributor, had announced a long-term plan to adopt cage-free eggs in all of their products and distribution chains. Many home cooks were eager to enjoy eggs that weren't forcibly produced from chickens stuffed into tight cages, and our editors were hopeful that Sysco's bold claim would inspire other restaurants and manufacturers to follow suit.

But a new survey suggests that the food industry has been slow to follow Sysco's lead, including the restaurants that previously said they’d start using cage-free eggs.

One animal welfare nonprofit group has been monitoring American companies and whether they've been following through on promises of going cage-free, and many declined to reveal if they had made the change, Bloomberg reports. The Compassion in World Farming's annual report, called EggTrack, shows that only 27 leading companies out of 100 surveyed had something positive to share about progress—and one of the major companies making stride was Hyatt Hotels.

The Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, Canopy by Hilton, and DoubleTree by Hilton have reportedly switched to using cage-free eggs exclusively, the Hilton brand told Bloomberg, despite being listed as a "did not report" company in the nonprofit's report.  

Shake Shack leads the fast-casual industry in using cage-free eggs in their products—after making their pledge in December, 2015, breakfast eggs served across their 117 U.S. locations have been cage-free, Shake Shake executive Jeffrey Amoscato told Bloomberg.

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But challenges arise even for those who are using cage-free eggs. Individual ingredients, such as Shake Shack's egg white powder for its marshmallow fluff, could still be made with eggs that aren't produced outside of cages. Amoscato told Bloomberg that Shake Shack contacted over 100 bakeries to ensure that their supply chain used cage-free eggs exclusively.

According to the report, the companies who haven’t started using cage-free eggs include Kellogg's (which recently suffered a large scale salmonella outbreak linked to Honey Smacks); Mars Inc.; and McDonald's, who previously set a deadline of using cage-free eggs in all of its meals by 2025.

Compassion in World Farming, the nonprofit responsible for the survey, told Bloomberg that the companies listed as not using cage-free eggs did not provide information to the organization to prove otherwise. But Katya Simkhovich, the food business manager at the nonprofit, said she hopes that this report will get both companies and their suppliers to start thinking about making the switch.  

“There has to be a pacing in the sourcing on the company side so that the producer side can transition,” she said. “It’s not overnight for them, either.”