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September 11, 2009

The HSUS Urges Cal-Maine Shareholders to Vote for Fiscal Accountability

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States, which owns 476 shares of Cal-Maine Foods stock, is calling on the egg company to properly account for and not misuse corporate funds to defend inhumane practices and oppose legislative measures that promote animal welfare.

Today The HSUS submitted a filing through the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in support of a shareholder resolution it will present at Cal-Maine's annual meeting on September 30th. As a shareholder, The HSUS' filing and shareholder resolution pertain to Cal-Maine's expenditures against a hugely-successful California anti-cruelty ballot initiative last November.

Jackson, Miss.-based Cal-Maine is the largest U.S. producer and distributor of shell (whole) eggs. More than 80 percent of its egg sales come from factory farms that cram egg-laying hens into battery cages — barren enclosures so tiny, the birds can't even spread their wings.

Last year, California voters overwhelmingly passed the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act prohibiting this type of cruel confinement. Cal-Maine spent more than half a million dollars to fight this modest measure, which polls consistently (and accurately) projected would win by at least 20 points. The company was one of the top contributors to the opposition effort.

Karla Koebernick, corporate marketing manager for The HSUS' factory farming campaign, will speak at the meeting. She states, "Rather than throwing money at opposing common-sense animal welfare improvements, Cal-Maine should instead use its funds to bring its production systems in line with the snowballing corporate and public opposition to cruel battery cages."

The HSUS' shareholder resolution asks the company to produce a twice-yearly report disclosing its political spending.

Consumers are consistently and increasingly demanding products that are not produced under the cruel conditions found at battery cage factory farms. In addition to nearly 400 colleges and universities across the country, national chains Safeway, Burger King, Wendy's, Quiznos, Denny's, Harris Teeter, Winn-Dixie, Costco, Hardee's, Carl's Jr. and many other companies have started using cage-free eggs.

A copy of The HSUS' shareholder resolution is available upon request.

Facts:

  • U.S. factory farms confine about 280 million hens in barren battery cages so small, they can't even spread their wings. Each bird has less space than a sheet of paper to spend her entire life.
  • Cage-free hens generally have two to three times more space per bird than caged hens. Cage-free hens may not be able to go outside and may have parts of their beaks cut off, but they can walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests — all behaviors permanently denied to hens crammed into battery cages.
  • Cage-free and organic (also cage-free) eggs are already an important part of Cal-Maine's business. The company's latest annual report details that specialty eggs (cage-free, organic and nutritionally enhanced) are "a rapidly growing segment of the market," and that "growing our specialty eggs business will enhance the stability of our margins."

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Follow The HSUS on Twitter.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — on the web at humanesociety.org.

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