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May 20, 2010

New Safeway Policy and Academic Study Reveal Strong Consumer and Retailer Shift toward Cage-Free Eggs Driven by Prop 2’s Passage

Thursday, Pleasanton, Calif.-based grocery giant Safeway announced that after continuing to work with The Humane Society of the United States, it will significantly increase its sales of cage-free eggs—from 6 percent to 12 percent—over the next two years.

Safeway's announcement comes as new research published in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization shows that publicity about California's Proposition 2 in 2008 increased consumer awareness about animal cruelty in industrial egg production, dramatically increasing in demand for cage-free eggs and decreasing demand for eggs from caged hens.

In "The Effect of Proposition 2 on the Demand for Eggs in California," Oklahoma State University professor Jayson L. Lusk investigates "the market effects of Proposition 2 by studying whether and how consumer demand for eggs changed in the months leading up to the vote in San Francisco and Oakland."

"The results suggest that the very act of putting an issue like Prop 2 on the ballot affects consumers' preferences – likely because consumers are largely unaware of and have incorrect beliefs about modern agricultural practices," Lusk concluded.

The research shows that despite higher prices, demand for cage-free and organic eggs increased 180 percent and 20 percent, respectively, in response to news stories about Prop 2—even as demand for cheaper battery cage eggs in Bay Area retail markets dropped and overall egg demand was unchanged.

"The Humane Society of the United States praises California-based companies such as Safeway and California consumers for making meaningful progress away from eggs from caged hens," stated HSUS California senior state director Jennifer Fearing, who managed the YES! on Prop 2 campaign. "California egg producers have an opportunity to thrive by meeting this demand and abandoning cruel cages."

The HSUS has worked with top California food service providers, grocers, restaurants and dozens of California colleges and universities—including most recently UCLA— in switching to cage-free eggs. Nationally, major companies like Burger King, Denny's, Wendy's, Subway, Sonic, Hardee's, Carl's Jr., Quiznos, Starbucks and Hellmann's mayonnaise are phasing in cage-free eggs.

California consumers are jumping on the bandwagon, too. While overall egg demand has remained constant, retail cage-free egg sales increased 150 percent in three years.

Facts:

  • In a landslide 2008 vote, nearly 64 percent of California voters passed Prop 2, outlawing cage confinement of egg-laying hens statewide by January 2015. So-called enriched cages are not compliant with Prop 2 and severely restrict important behaviors of laying hens. An abundance of science shows that they are detrimental to hen welfare.
  • U.S. factory farms confine about 280 million hens in barren cages so small, they can't even spread their wings. Extensive scientific research confirms this causes suffering.
  • 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, like caged hens, 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.

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Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching "HumaneTV" in the App Store.

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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