General Mills Working Toward Animal-Welfare Goals

MINNEAPOLIS (Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS) -

General Mills is working toward using only cage-free eggs in its products, joining several other large food manufacturers and retailers.

General Mills’ cage-free-egg goals were announced Tuesday as part of a declaration of broad animal-welfare goals for its supply chain.

The company, maker of everything from cereal to soup and cake mixes, said it supports “five freedoms” for all animals in its supply chain: freedom from hunger, discomfort, fear and pain, as well as freedom to engage in normal patterns of animal behavior.

“Certainly, the highlight of this announcement is the commitment to (work toward) 100 percent cage-free eggs,” said Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States, which has worked with General Mills and other large companies on animal-welfare principles.

In the U.S. egg industry, several hens usually share a small, cramped cage, which animal-rights activists have long fought against due to the birds’ lack of ability to move. The cage-free segment of the egg business is still relatively small, but it’s growing.

Kellogg’s, Nestle, Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Sodexo and Aramark — the last two are large institutional food providers — have made public pledges to move away from the cage system in their egg supply chains. The process will likely take years, as the egg industry has a huge investment in the current system.

Potentially making things more difficult, the Upper Midwest’s egg industry is currently in turmoil after avian flu wiped out over 30 million birds this spring.

“We recognize the current avian influenza outbreak has been deeply disruptive of the U.S. egg supply,” General Mills, based in the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley, said in a press statement. “As the industry works to rebuild its supply chain, we will work with suppliers to determine a path and reasonable timeline towards (the cage-free) commitment.”