Supermarkets Are The 'Final Frontier' Of The Cage-Free Egg Movement

The movement by major food companies to end the use of eggs laid by caged hens hit critical mass this year.

It began when McDonald's, which uses 2 billion eggs each year in the U.S. alone, pledged in September to eliminate eggs laid by hens held in cramped wire cages from its supply chain by 2025.

Others quickly followed suit. In the last two weeks alone, Nestlé and Subway -- the world's largest food producer and fast food chain, respectively -- announced hard deadlines by which they will convert their supplies.

But changing the habits of corporate food giants isn't the holy grail for animal welfare activists. The real target hits much closer to home.

"It's when we are going to start seeing change at the supermarkets," David Coman-Hidy, executive director at the animal welfare nonprofit The Humane League, told The Huffington Post by phone on Sunday. "The final frontier is for retailers to catch up to consumer sentiment."

Hens that lay eggs in cramped battery cages live in squalor, unable to spread their wings or even walk around. Such factory farm techniques have been banned in the European Union since 2012, but are used to produce the vast majority of eggs sold in the United States. Of the nearly 7.5 billion eggs laid in the U.S. in September, just 4.5 percent were from cage-free hens, according to data from the industry group United Egg Producers.

The push, then, for corporate food behemoths to adopt cage-free eggs has been largely symbolic.  

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