Europe’s largest food businesses are making good progress towards meeting commitments to switch to exclusively cage-free eggs with those that have failed to set targets “falling seriously behind the curve”.
Compassion in World Farming said 72% of companies are now partially reporting progress against their commitments with 42% fully reporting against all of their commitments.
The retail sector leads on the average progress made against commitments with an end date of 2019 or later with 78% of retailers cage-free compared with 67% of manufacturers and 54% of foodservice operators.
Compassion found that the closer the commitment end date, the greater the number of companies reporting progress and the more progress being made towards meeting the cage-free commitments.
Of the commitments with 2025 end dates, 26% have been reported against, and an average of 52% of eggs are now cage-free.
Compassion did, however, express concern about the development of a variety of intensive multi-tier systems, including the ‘combi-cage’ or ‘combination system’, which have been invested in by some producers, particularly the USA and Italy, claiming that these systems did not afford hens the welfare benefits expected of true cage-free living.
The 2019 EggTrack report presents data from 106 group-level companies across Europe, featuring leading retailers, foodservice operators, manufacturers and producers, which have been selected based on their size, the volumes of eggs they use, and their potential to impact the egg market.
The report highlights the progress companies are making across not only shell or whole egg, but also their product and ingredient egg supply chains, which Compassion said are just as important but often forgotten when it comes to commitments and reporting.
“The breadth of companies now included in EggTrack clearly signifies that those yet to make cage-free commitments are seriously falling behind the curve,” said Dr Tracey Jones, Compassion’s director of food business. “The market is undeniably moving towards a new cage-free era and I sincerely hope other companies yet to introduce cage-free policies will follow their example, and that cages for laying hens can finally be consigned to the history books.”