The group’s latest EggTrack study – which monitors the successful voluntary transition to cage-free by the world’s largest food businesses – revealed solid progress towards this ambition in 2023.
Of the 444 global food businesses monitored by EggTrack, a total of 715 cage-free commitments had been made, of which 511 (71%) were reporting progress, the report, published today, revealed.
On average there was a 75% transition to cage free in 2023, rising to 80% in Europe (including the UK), with nine companies – including the UK’s Bakkavor and Associated British Foods – making cage-free commitments last year.
A further eight businesses had achieved their goal of becoming cage-free at either global, regional or national level last year, including UK egg supplier LJ Fairburn & Son and KFC across Europe.
Meanwhile, 21 companies had made clear statements against the use of combination systems within their supply chain (such as the ongoing use of some caged systems), including Domino’s Pizza Group (in the UK and Ireland) and Bidfood, the research found.
This came despite the “ongoing challenges” to the egg supply chain from avian influenza, inflation and the war in Ukraine, the report added.
“The voluntary commitments and continued progress highlighted throughout this report clearly demonstrate that food companies are focused on providing a cage-free future for egg-laying hens,” said Compassion in World Farming global director of food business Dr Tracey Jones.
However, more could also be done by governments to “get on board and introduce legislation to underpin the end of cages”, the report added. And without these voluntary actions being reinforced by legislators, “there can’t be a final eradication of cages”, it warned.
Such legislation would broadly reflect consumer attitudes, as demonstrated by the 1.4 million EU citizens who signed the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens Initiative in 2020, along with the 2023 Eurobarometer in which 91% of Europeans said they believed protecting the welfare of farmed animals was important, Compassion said.
A further 84% said these animals “should be better protected than they are currently”, it added, while noting much of the scientific community also supported the end of cages, as evident in a series of European Food Safety Authority opinions.
“With leading food companies, consumer sentiment and robust scientific evidence supporting a cage-free future, Compassion urges policymakers to get on board and introduce legislation to underpin the end of cages,” the campaign group said.
“The progression demonstrated by food businesses reflect consumer concerns for animal welfare and with extensive scientific evidence backing the need for cage-free production, it’s now time for policymakers to reinforce and support the positive action the food industry is taking,” it added.
Jones said: “The voluntary commitments and continued progress highlighted throughout this report clearly demonstrate that food companies are focused on providing a cage-free future for egg-laying hens.
“Europe holds a unique opportunity to lead the way on animal welfare. By responding to its citizens with a ban on cages and supporting businesses in their transition, the European Commission has a momentous opportunity to create a level playing field across industry and send a strong message to the rest of the world that cages should be consigned to the history books for good.”