Sodexo, the foodservice provider at Ramapo, has made a commitment to use only cage-free liquid eggs by the year 2020, effectively ending a cruelty campaign launched against them by the Humane League. Sodexo announced this commitment last Thursday.
Cage-free eggs serve as the alternative to eggs sourced from battery cages. According to the Humane Society, battery cages are cramped and inhumane holding cells for egg-laying hens that stunt natural habits, such as nesting, and give hens less than 67 square inches to move freely. As the name suggests, cage-free hens are not held in battery cages, and live healthier and more natural lives than the former. Animal welfare committees have long been urging companies to source only cage-free eggs.
In 2012, Sodexo switched to using cage-free eggs for their shell eggs; however, that still left a large portion of liquid eggs that were not being accounted for. Consequently, the Humane League, a national farmed animal advocacy organization, began a campaign against Sodexo in late November.
“We had hopes that they would just come to the table and speak with us,” said Taylor Ford, the campaign coordinator of the Humane League. “Unfortunately, because they refused to do that, we work with their clients … Unfortunately, [Sodexo] said they don’t really want to talk to us about it.”
However, according to Enrico Dinges, senior manager of media relations and corporate communications for Sodexo, going cage-free has been an initiative that Sodexo has been working toward for years.
“We’ve been working on this for several years now and we have worked with the Humane Society previously on our sourcing of shelled eggs from cage-free eggs. This is just a continuation of that work, and trying to work with the supply chain to identify when it would be feasible for us to be able to source all of our egg offerings from cage-free eggs,” said Dinges.
Working out the supply and demand logistics has been a concern of Sodexo in making this change. According to a press release from Sodexo, the company currently sources about 20 million liquid eggs a year from 750,000 hens.
“There’s more volume involved in liquid eggs, so it’s a matter of the agro business catching up to the supply and demand that would be there,” said Dinges. “So, we were finding it, through a long process, frankly, a challenge to even meet our supply for the shelled eggs, so going to liquid eggs, which is a larger quantity of volume, just meant that we had to continually have those conversations and see would there be enough supply in the supply chain to meet our plans.”
Previously, the Humane League had been talking to dining directors at schools and encouraging colleges and universities to explore other options for food providers, as Sodexo was still sourcing a large amount of eggs from battery cages. Their campaign against Sodexo encouraged students to petition and table in dining areas to inform other students about Sodexo’s use of battery-cage eggs. However, as a result of Sodexo’s commitment, the Humane League’s efforts against the company are effectively over.
“We were pretty surprised when we heard Sodexo’s announcement. Considering their lack of communication – it was definitely a surprise! We were really thankful though – Sodexo really stepped up and listened to the thousands of concerned consumers in this campaign,” said Ford in a follow-up email, after Sodexo announced their new initiative.
The Humane League will now focus their attentions on other food providers that have yet to make the switch to cage-free eggs, according to Ford.
Dinges describes Sodexo’s commitment as an extension of its “Better Tomorrow” plan, which lays out the company’s efforts toward sustainability. According to the press release, Sodexo is also working to eliminate gestation crates from their pork supply chain by 2022, as well as veal crates by 2017. Because of these efforts, as well as other animal welfare initiatives Sodexo has promised to work toward, Dinges feels the Ramapo community should be proud of their food provider.
“I think they should be very proud to have Sodexo on their campus,” he said. “A company that’s very committed, not only to the health, well-being and providing nutritious meals to the students, faculty and staff, but also to source food in a way that pays attention to animal welfare and also to issues of sustainability.”