As the trend of major food companies switching to cage-free eggs continues, the biggest food seller in the United States is now on board. On Tuesday, Walmart U.S. announced it will make a 100 percent cage-free transition by 2025. The move covers all Walmart and Sam's Club stores in the U.S.
To implement the switch, Walmart will require all of its shell egg suppliers to be certified and fully compliant with United Egg Producers (UEP) Animal Husbandry Guidelines or equivalent standard, and the company will employ a third party to monitor compliance annually. Walmart says it also will "challenge suppliers to use selective breeding practices, innovation, and best management practices to improve the health and welfare of laying hens." The company will report on suppliers' improvement against these metrics through its "Sustainability Index," which helps it track the environmental impact and sourcing of products throughout its supply chain.
"Our customers and associates count on Walmart and Sam's Club to deliver on affordability and quality, while at the same time offering transparency into how their food is grown and raised," Walmart chief sustainability officer Kathleen McLaughlin said in a prepared statement. "Our commitment to transition to a cage-free egg supply chain recognizes that expectation and represents another step we are taking to improve transparency for food we sell in our U.S. stores and clubs."
The announcement has animal rights activists celebrating. Reacting to Walmart's decision, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the U.S., said it will make cage-free eggs the norm in this country.
"Since September, when McDonald's announced its cage-free policy, we knew that we had turned the corner in the fight against battery cages," Pacelle wrote on The Humane Society's blog. "But today, that debate ends, and the trajectory is clear. The era of confining hens in cages in America's food system is officially sunsetting."
McDonald's made waves by announcing its intention to go cage-free last fall, citing consumer pressure. "Our customers are increasingly interested in knowing more about their food and where it comes from," McDonald's USA president Mike Andres said at the time. Since then, other big brands such as Starbucks, Taco Bell, Subway, and PepsiCo have joined the movement.