One of the nation's largest food service companies is going totally cage free.
Philadelphia-based Aramark said late Thursday it will phase out by 2020 the use of liquid (or pre-cracked) eggs from suppliers that keep hens in battery cages.
The company, which purchases 20 million pounds of liquid eggs each year, is already poised to complete its transition for purchases of 30 million shelled eggs from cage free producers by the end of the year.
In 2012 Aramark announced it would phase out the use of pork from suppliers who keep pigs in cramped gestation crates.
"This decision will improve the lives of roughly 750,000 chickens per year and it reinforces the larger food industry trajectory on this issue: cage confinement has no place in the future of the egg industry," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.
The company, working with the Humane Society of the United States, said it will announce next week a comprehensive animal welfare policy involving the treatment of animals for pork, veal, beef, poultry and daily production.
Aramark does not raise animals or grow products and relies on suppliers who have said it will require years to change their production methods in order to transition to cage-free eggs, the company said in a statement. In the U.S. today less than 10% of the total hen-laying flock is cage-free.
The announcement comes on the heels of news that another food service giant, Sodexo was phasing out by 2020 the use of battery cages for hens and by 2017 would end the use of veal crates (that house calves used in veal production) iin its supply chain.
"Battery cages are tightly confined spaces no larger than a sheet of paper that impede hens from spreading their wings or engaging in any of their natural behaviors," said David Coman-Hidy, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Humane League, which led the Sodexo effort. "This outdated agricultural practice is so cruel that it is already illegal in the entire European Union and several states in the United States."