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November 8, 2005

Trader Joe's Goes Cage-Free with Its Brand Eggs

The Humane Society of the United States

After more than four months of debate over battery cages and corporate policies, The HSUS and Trader Joe's reached an agreement on Monday in which the grocery chain consented to purchase only cage-free eggs for the company's own brand of eggs. The decision is expected to greatly improve the lives of the approximately 380,000 laying hens who provide the more than 100 million Trader Joe's brand eggs sold each year.

Trader Joe's action is the latest victory for The HSUS's No Battery Eggs campaign, which, in its short existence, has already convinced a number of universities, supermarkets, and food service providers to eliminate or dramatically reduce their support for the abusive battery cage system.

"Trader Joe's has taken a positive step that will have a meaningful effect on animal welfare," said HSUS President & CEO Wayne Pacelle. "By converting its brand of eggs to cage-free, Trader Joe's will help to reduce the number of birds confined in cruel battery cages."

The majority of eggs currently sold at Trader Joe's are the company's own brand eggs, laid by hundreds of thousands of hens confined in battery cages—wire enclosures so small the birds cannot even spread their wings. These cages are typically stacked on top of each other on hen factory farms, where some 200,000 birds can be crammed into a single, football-field length barn.

Trader Joe's decision will end this kind of suffering for hundreds of thousands of laying hens. Trader Joe's has agreed that within three months:

  • All Trader Joe's brand eggs will be converted to cage-free eggs.

  • Any egg promotions by Trader Joe's will be devoted solely to cage-free egg sales.

"While Trader Joe's did stop short of adopting a total cage-free egg policy, the company proved to us that it is serious about improving the lives of laying hens," said The HSUS's Pacelle. "We understand that sometimes change happens a step at a time, and we applaud Trader Joe's for making this strong move."

Added Trader Joe's Chairman and CEO Dan Bane: "Customers looking for cage-free eggs will need to look no further than the Trader Joe's label. We expect this change will help further boost the proportion of sales of cage-free eggs at Trader Joe's."

The Road to Victory

Trader Joe's policy change is the latest advancement for laying hens in the United States. Earlier this year, Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Natural Marketplace implemented exclusively cage-free egg policies, and several regional grocery chains and college cafeterias have pledged the same.  Food-service provider Bon Appétit—which purchases 8 million shell eggs for the more than 55 million meals it sells annually in nearly 200 dining facilities in 26 states—has begun a one-year phase-out of all shell battery eggs.

The agreement between The HSUS and Trader Joe's came only after tens of thousands of animal advocates mobilized across the country to emphasize the horrible conditions that battery-caged hens endure daily. Our campaign began with an email alert in late June, asking HSUS readers and online members to encourage Trader Joe's to adopt a cage-free egg policy. The campaign later launched a grassroots movement in which advocates distributed tens of thousands of HSUS leaflets to Trader Joe's customers—each leaflet roughly equivalent in size to the amount of space provided to each bird in a battery cage. In October, the campaign ran a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times encouraging residents in Trader Joe's own backyard—its corporate headquarters are near LA—to give an inch when it comes to laying hen welfare.

"The fact is, we couldn't have achieved this tremendous victory for laying hens without the activity and participation from animal advocates in communities across the country," said Pacelle. "We cannot thank those people enough. This campaign is yet more proof that the people have a voice in how animals are treated in this country."

Precedent in the U.K.

In April 2005, a similar move was announced by ASDA, Wal-Mart's subsidiary in the United Kingdom. ASDA converted its store brand eggs to free-range, eliciting national press coverage as well as praise from the British animal welfare community. An April 25 press release on the company's free-range policy was titled, "ASDA Set to Release Half a Million Hens from Battery Cages by May Day."

Six months after ASDA made its announcement, the store had reportedly seen more growth in its free-range egg sales than any other British grocery chain. An October 26 news article noted, "In the supermarket race to increase sales of free range eggs, ASDA is the clear winner."

The Future of Our Campaign

While Trader Joe's did not go as far as Whole Foods Markets and Wild Oats Marketplace, the company's action is a very tangible and positive change in policy, and a major victory for egg-laying hens. As such, The HSUS is putting its Trader Joe's campaign on moratorium, and will soon announce the next phase of its No Battery Eggs campaign.

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