Today, (17 November) Compassion launched its latest GLOBAL EggTrack report which shows that, despite supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, companies continue to make progress on their commitments to source cage-free eggs.
According to the 2021 report, 156 of 219 (71%) tracked companies are reporting progress against their cage-free commitments—up from 63% in 2020. Of the 47 companies with global commitments, 26 (55%) reported progress against these commitments, and since last year, an additional 12 companies have expanded their commitments to cover their entire global egg supply.
- Overall, 71% of companies tracked are reporting progress against their cage-free commitments
- 12 companies expanded their commitments to cover their entire global supply including Carrefour, Groupe Holder and Restaurant Brands International
- Two companies – Danone and Hormel Foods – met their global cage-free commitments this year
- Of the 116 companies with European commitments (as part of a regional or global commitment), 84% reported progress
- Two companies – Nestlé and Yum! Brands (for its KFC Western Europe Subsidiary) - met Europe-level commitments in 2021
- 9 companies have recognised the need to eliminate combination systems from their egg supply chains including Barilla, Domino’s, Eurovo and Metro Group
- 13 companies met their country-level commitments within Europe including Aldi Sud (Hofer Italy), Domino's (Ireland and UK), Greggs plc (UK), and Schwarz Group (Lidl Spain)
Legislation catching up
EggTrack this year shows how legislation is finally catching up with the industry to move to cage-free production with the European Commission’s landmark decision in June to phase out cages for all farm animals across the continent by 2027.
This historic decision was the result of the End the Cage Age campaign ECI (European Citizens Initiative), spearheaded by Compassion in coalition with 170 NGOs, which gained 1.4 million signatures from EU citizens, and support from leading European companies.
More companies phasing out combi cages
EggTrack highlights the risks of ‘combination’ and ‘limited access’ systems, which are marketed as ‘cage-free’ but have doors (and internal partitions) which can be easily closed – allowing a producer to switch back to cage production.
These systems have been suppressed in the UK – where over 90% of producers subscribe to the British Lion scheme which prohibits the use of combi systems.
Across Europe, more and more leading companies are recognising the need to eliminate combi systems such as Eurovo, and Barilla that only has 8% combi systems left to convert.
But there is still some way to go elsewhere in the world to educate producers against the use of these misleading highly intensive systems.
'Watch out' in emerging markets
While momentum for cage-free egg production is growing in key markets like Europe and the US there are also signs of positive change in South America and Asia.
Global companies such as Subway, Burger King, Sodexo, Compass Group, Accor Hotels, Metro AG and Marriott International have made cage-free pledges that cover Asia, while in South America, the region’s largest egg producer, Mantiqueira, committed at the end of 2020 to halt the construction of any new caged facilities.
In contrast, however, there is an alarming rise in caged production in some emerging markets like India, Indonesia, and South Africa so there is a clear need to ensure that the demise of the cage in some regions is not overshadowed by a rise in caged production in others.
Tackling the hidden egg
While progress on cage-fee shell eggs is evident, there is still substantial room for improvement when it comes to the ‘hidden’ ingredient egg supply.
In the UK the big four retailers, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons all now have cage-free ingredient egg commitments, as do many other retailers and food service companies.
However, manufacturers are lagging with leading companies such as Bakkavor and Dawn Foods both without any public cage-free egg commitments. On a positive note, Greencore just recently announced its commitment to sourcing 100% cage-free eggs by 2025.
The demise of the cage in inevitable
Despite the global pandemic continuing to deliver uncertainty and obstacles for the entire food sector, many companies have persisted in their efforts to go cage-free.
The landmark decision by the European Commission to phase out cages for all farm animals across the continent by 2027 has set the tone for cage-free egg production across the globe and we are already witnessing a rise in global commitments as corporate cage-free sign-ups ripple out to other regions.
The various commitment deadlines are looming, and the race is on for all companies, especially those with global footprints, to adopt cage-free systems now to ensure the future success of their businesses.