May 02, 2012 05:10
Burger King Corp. announced last week that it will transition to using only cage-free hens for its U.S. egg supply. The changeover is expected to take five years. According to Burger King, it was the first major quick-serve restaurant chain to implement a set of animal welfare policies aimed at reducing cage confinement of egg-laying hens. Since 2007, Burger King has been incorporating cage-free eggs into its supply chain. What exactly is meant by a cage-free hen? Most egg-laying hens exist in what are called battery cages--cages so small the hens can barely move. The floor area can be as small as a piece of letter-size paper. Hens are so cramped that most are unable to stretch their wings or engage in other natural behaviors, such as nesting, perching and dust-bathing.
They don't have access to natural light, and as many as 100,000 birds may be grouped together under a single roof. Sometimes, cages are stacked on top of other cages and hens in lower cages get pelted with waste from the hens above them. In general, cage-free hens are free to roam. According to Eggland's Best, its cage-free hens are provided with sunlight, shade, shelter, an exercise area, fresh air, and are protected from predators. The hens are fed an all-natural, all-vegetarian feed that contains no added hormones, antibiotics or steroids, and no animal by-products, recycled or processed foods.
To be considered cage-free, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires only that a bird spend part of its time outside. Wikipedia does a good job explaining the variations of free-range practices. Click here to see them. For more information on cage-free eggs, click here.
Do you have any idea at all what conditions the hens that supply your property's eggs are in? Be sure to ask your supplier. What you feed your guests for breakfast may not be as healthy for them as you think. The eggs may in fact run counter to your green story and your commitment to corporate social responsibility. In my time with Green Lodging News I have seen few hotels or hotel companies commit to cage-free eggs. (See Hyatt article to learn about its commitment.) I am sure cost is one reason. Your thoughts?