We rejoiced in 2020 when one of the largest grocery corporations in the U.S. made a commitment to sell eggs only from cage-free hens by 2025 or sooner. Ahold Delhaize, the fifth-largest grocery corporation in the U.S., owns chains that include Giant, Food Lion and Stop & Shop, among others. As recently as last year, company executives stated that “we believe supporting animal welfare is the right thing to do,” and expressed their understanding that “farm animal welfare is connected to food safety, due to the close links between space provided to animals and their health.” 

Unfortunately, Ahold Delhaize is dragging its feet on its commitment to cage-free eggs. It has also made no progress on its commitment to phase out gestation crates for pigs, which confine pregnant sows so tightly they cannot move more than a few inches in any direction. Ahold Delhaize has not even mentioned or shared an updated timeline for moving away from suppliers that still use gestation crates.  

At least the company has addressed its failure on the egg front in its 2023 annual report. In it, Ahold Delhaize claims it is difficult to find suppliers of eggs from cage-free hens.

Here, we cry foul. It’s typical for foot-dragging corporations to say they can’t find more humane suppliers. This is highly unlikely; farmers and producers follow the market. As of 2024 40% of hens in the U.S. egg industry are cage-free. There is no shortage of supply. Plus, companies such as Costco, McDonald’s, Burger King, Denny’s, IHOP, Compass Group US, Sodexo, Aramark, Unilever, Cheesecake Factory, Nestle and dozens of others have all either transitioned to sourcing 100% cage-free eggs or are on track to reach 100% cage-free in the coming years. Why should Ahold Delhaize be any different, given the rise in cage-free production throughout the country? 

In the same report, Ahold Delhaize said it would update its targets in 2024—but now we’re nearly at the year’s halfway mark, and we have yet to hear a new commitment. 

When companies make animal welfare promises they do not keep, they cause multiple harms. Of course, there are the animals: Hens kept in battery cages suffer for their entire lives, crammed in wire enclosures with several other hens, unable to ever spread their wings. Standing on filthy wire, their feet routinely become covered with sores. The longer battery cage systems are supported by corporate entities, the longer this system causes immense suffering. 

Empty promises, or their delayed fulfillment, also cause confusion for the public. Data for Progress set out to explore how the company’s customers feel about sourcing eggs from cage-free hens, and in May conducted a poll of nearly 700 of them across Ahold Delhaize’s brands. Among other things, the newly released findings show that customers:

  • Are misled into thinking that egg cartons sold at Ahold Delhaize containing eggs from caged chickens are cage-free. 
  • Overwhelmingly support clear, color-coded markers identifying which eggs come from caged chickens. 
  • Are more likely to buy the company’s private label eggs if those eggs were exclusively cage-free. 
  • Express strong preferences about the treatment of chickens from whom eggs are sourced.

Ahold Delhaize should take these findings to heart: This polling sends a clear message that people do not want their eggs to come from hens so cruelly confined. If the company is serious about meeting the concerns of a public that’s increasingly conscious of animal welfare, it should take tangible steps to move forward to reach its commitment to sourcing 100% cage-free eggs, and it would act to achieve them as soon as possible including 1) switch all its private label eggs to be cage-free, 2) put up color-coded markers in the egg aisle making clear which eggs come from caged chickens and which don’t and 3) reduce its variety of cage eggs offered to one. Ahold Delhaize should give an update on its timeline on phasing out gestation crates for pigs in its supply chains, as well. 

By failing to fulfill their promises, corporations maintain the status quo in which animals suffer. Meanwhile, the public is left confused about which companies are actually upholding their animal welfare commitments. 

As for us, we don’t retreat just because a company doesn’t make good on its promises, and we are committed to pushing Ahold Delhaize to do the right thing for animals and customers. You can urge Ahold Delhaize to take action on eggs through messaging the social media accounts of the company’s subsidiaries, Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Hannaford and Giant

Follow Kitty Block @HSUSKittyBlock.