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March 2, 2011

St. Luke’s Hospital Joins National Cage-Free Egg Movement

St. Luke’s Hospital of Duluth, Minn., 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. Luke’s hospitality services is moving away from eggs produced by hens confined in tiny cages that provide each bird less space than a sheet of paper to spend her entire life.

“By switching to cage-free eggs in its dining operations, St. Luke’s is demonstrating that it takes animal welfare and food safety seriously,” said Kristie Middleton, corporate outreach manager for The HSUS’ factory farming campaign. “The Humane Society of the United States applauds the hospital’s transition to cage-free eggs.”

St. Luke’s switch to cage-free eggs is the latest salvo in its commitment to social responsibility. In 2006, Mark Branovan, director of hospitality services, was the first head of a hospital food service department to sign Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge, committing to food procurement practices and reuse procedures that are healthful, socially responsible and ecologically sustainable.

“As the community example for healthcare, it is the hospital’s responsibility to be a responsible steward,” said Mark Branovan. “Our switch to cage-free eggs from higher welfare sources represents our commitment to safer food and better treatment of animals.”

Last summer’s recall of half a billion eggs spotlighted the animal welfare and food safety problems associated with confining hens in cages. In fact, all 15 studies published in the last five years comparing Salmonella rates in cage and cage-free operations found increased Salmonella rates in cage operations.

More than three dozen U.S. hospitals and hospital systems have switched to cage-free eggs in recent years. Major food manufacturers Kraft, Otis Spunkmeyer and Sara Lee are switching millions of eggs in their products to cage-free. Hellmann’s mayonnaise recently 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. 

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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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