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November 30, 2010

St. Charles Medical Center Joins National Cage-Free Egg Movement

St. Charles Health System of Bend, Ore., has improved animal welfare and food safety by switching to cage-free eggs, garnering praise from The Humane Society of the United States. As part of its new initiative, St. Charles Bend’s Culinary Services is moving away from eggs from hens confined in tiny cages that provide each bird less space than a sheet of paper to spend her entire life.

“The Humane Society of the United States applauds St. Charles for its switch to cage-free eggs and hopes more hospitals will follow its lead,” said Kristie Middleton, corporate outreach manager for The HSUS' factory farming campaign. “St. Charles should be commended for improving the welfare of animals and food safety in its supply chain.”

St. Charles’ switch to cage-free eggs couldn’t come at a better time. This summer’s recall of half a billion eggs spotlighted the animal welfare and food safety problems associated with confining hens in cages. All 10 studies published in the last five years comparing Salmonella rates in cage and cage-free operations found increased rates in cage operations.

Mark Petersen, St. Charles’ Director of Hospitality Services, said, “St. Charles is proud of our commitment to providing safer food that is also better for animal welfare. We recognize our responsibility to be a good steward, and we take that responsibility seriously, which is why we switched to cage-free eggs.”

More than two dozen U.S. hospitals and hospital systems have switched to cage-free eggs in recent years. Major food manufacturers Sara Lee, Kraft, and Otis Spunkmeyer are switching millions of eggs in their products to cage-free. Hellmann’s mayonnaise announced that it will convert all 350 million eggs it uses each year to cage-free. Major restaurant chains—including Subway, Burger King, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Sonic, Quiznos, Hardee’s, Red Robin and Carl's Jr.—use cage-free eggs. And supermarket chains including Wal-Mart, Costco, and Safeway have taken steps to increase their cage-free egg sales.

California and Michigan have passed laws to outlaw the cage confinement of hens, and California passed a law requiring all whole eggs used in the state to be cage-free by 2015.

Facts

  • U.S. factory farms confine about 280 million hens in 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 cages.
  • Factory farming is a major social issue: A study by food industry consultancy Technomic ranked animal welfare as the third most-important social issue to restaurant patrons; an American Farm Bureau-funded report found that 89 percent of Americans believe that food companies that require their suppliers to treat farm animals better are doing the right thing; and a Citigroup report found that cruelty to animals presents a “headline risk” to restaurant companies. 

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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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