Home Publisher's Point of View Lodging Industry Shows Leadership on Hen Welfare Issue

Lodging Industry Shows Leadership on Hen Welfare Issue

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For most egg-laying hens, it is not an easy life. Raised on factory farms in wire cages, they typically have the space of an iPad to live on for 1.5 to two years—not enough space to do anything other than lay eggs. Josh Balk, Senior Food Policy Director, The Humane Society of the United States, told me that when it comes to animal cruelty, living conditions for egg-laying hens is the No. 1 concern.

In case you missed it, earlier this month Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide announced plans to source 100 percent of its eggs from cage-free chickens across its supply chain by 2020. In an announcement regarding the change, Andrea Pinabell, Starwood’s Vice President of Sustainability, said, “Animal welfare is important to our customers and our company, and many of our hotels around the world already use cage-free eggs.”

Balk says Starwood joins more than 60 other major companies that have made a commitment to transition to cage-free eggs. Among those companies are Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, and Omni Hotels & Resorts. Last year Aramark announced that it would purchase only cage-free eggs by 2020. Perhaps the biggest egg consumer of all companies, McDonald’s, announced late last summer that it will fully transition to cage-free eggs for its nearly 16,000 restaurants in the United States and Canada over the next 10 years. The decision by McDonald’s is expected to free an estimated 8 million hens a year from tight confinement.

Not a ‘Utopia’ But a ‘Vast Improvement’

Moving into a cage-free environment is not a vacation for a hen. Balk told me that in most cases hens will still not go outdoors and there may be several thousand in a barn. “At least they are able to run around, perch, dust and socialize,” Balk says. “While not utopia, it is a vast improvement.”

Larger companies have set transition goals five to 10 years out in order to give the supplier community time to catch up. “As long as there is a phase-in, the industry can catch up,” Balk says. “We are seeing phase-ins. As long as there is time for producers to renovate, producers can adapt.”

Balk singled out the lodging industry as being a leader in making the transition to cage-free eggs.

As the industry makes the transition to cage-free, there are some that provide their guests with eggs from pasture-raised chickens—an even better option. In a recent post on our Facebook page, the Orchard House, Granville, Ohio, posted an image of a boiled egg all ready to eat. “Direct from our chickens in our field to the breakfast table,” they said. It did look yummy.

It is great to see many in our industry step up to make the change to cage-free. Somebody probably should ask, “What took you so long?” I look forward to reading future announcements about even more companies going cage-free.

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