A cage-free egg pledge needs commitment to transparency

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New-Zealand-eggs

Michal Wargen, Freeimages.com

With a major shift to cage-free eggs transforming the market, it is inevitable that questions will arise concerning the pace of this shift and effectively marrying supply with demand.

Some of these concerns have been recently voiced on WATTAgNet. To address these concerns, the hundreds of companies that have made commitments to a 100 percent cage-free egg supply have an important responsibility: to clearly communicate and transparently report on progress to the many stakeholders involved in the transition.

A company’s stakeholders — including investors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), consumers, and suppliers — all have a vested interest in the actual implementation of these higher animal welfare commitments. Therefore, transparency, target setting, and performance reporting are imperative. Rosie Wardle of Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) — an investor initiative that aims to put intensive animal agriculture on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda and works with investors representing more than $3 trillion in assets — recently noted: “Setting goals for animal welfare is a positive first step, but equally important for investors is implementation. Transparent reporting not only demonstrates a commitment to animal welfare, but provides a good indicator of overall quality of company management.”

In recent months, more and more companies have started reporting on their progress regarding their animal welfare goals. Campbell Soup Company, Taco Bell, Unilever, Compass Group, Dunkin Donuts, Mondelez, and Kroger have all recently reported publicly the percentage of their egg supply that is cage free. Sodexo, in addition to disclosing the current proportion of their North American and global supply that is cage-free, has bolstered its cage-free egg commitment with incremental target setting — important stepping stones to keep the company on track to meet its 2025 global cage-free egg pledge.

EggTrack follows progress toward meeting cage-free goals

This kind of transparent communication on progress is essential as producers and buyers navigate the path to a completely cage-free egg supply. To help facilitate this communication and industry-wide transition, Compassion in World Farming launched EggTrack, a cage-free progress tracker, in September. 

The tracker displays the current percentage of cage-free eggs within a company’s supply chain, and will be updated annually until the commitments are met in full. The report includes only publicly disclosed information. As more companies publicly report their progress, the information they provide will help pace the wider market and address concerns with marrying supply and demand.

In establishing public reporting and target setting as routine practice, both buyers and producers can gain confidence in an evolving market–one that is steadily and inevitably moving towards higher welfare for farm animals. 

Katya Simkhovich is the food business coordinator for Compassion in World Farming.

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