Safeway (NYSE: SWY), the second-largest supermarket chain in the US, announced another major sustainability initiative.
In addition to sourcing only sustainably sourced fish, the company is the first major grocery retailer to certify cage-free eggs.
Even when you buy purportedy cage-free eggs, there's no way to confirm the truth of that label without certification. All Safeway's cage-free eggs are now sourced from farms that are Certified Humane®.
More than 15% of Safeway's egg sales now come from cage-free hens.
"We are supporting traditional farming practices and are committed to improving the welfare of farm animals," says John Larsen , Safeway Vice President of Dairy and Refrigerated. "We will continue to work with our suppliers to offer our customers what they have shown us they want to see in our selection. We are determined to move the needle forward for progress across the business. It's the right thing to do."
"Safeway's commitment has been unique and impressive," says Adele Douglass, founder and CEO of Humane Farm Animal Care, the nonprofit that developed and administers the Certified Humane® labeling program for eggs, meat, dairy and poultry products. "Safeway's suppliers had to make the changes necessary to become certified. As a result, Safeway and its suppliers have had a major impact on improving the humane treatment of laying hens in the U.S. Safeway's leadership is unparalleled within the retail food industry."
To qualify for the Certified Humane® label, an egg farm must meet these animal welfare standards:
- Cages are not permitted and housing facilities must include areas for hens to nest, dust bath, scratch and perch.
- Animals have ample space, shelter and gentle handling to limit stress.
- Animals must have access to ample fresh water and a healthy diet of quality feed with no animal by products.
- Egg lifecycle has no added antibiotics because hens live in more humane conditions.
Safeway says it will continue working with suppliers to expand production of cage-free eggs and reward farmers who adopt humane practices.
"It's still a challenge, given the quantities of eggs we sell in our store... If we said tomorrow we're going completely cage-free, we couldn't do it, we'd be going out of the egg business," spokesperson Brian Dowling told the Seattle Times. "We've consciously made a decision as a company that this is a place where we're going to take a leadership role."
In May, Safeway announced it would buy pork only from suppliers that don't use gestation crates, joining a slew of companies that have made similar announcements: Sysco, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Kraft Foods, Oscar Mayer, Denny's, Cracker Barrel, Sonic, Carl's Jr., Hardee's, Baja Fresh, Compass Group and Sodexo.
Safeway is also notable for its sustainable seafood sourcing policy, but on the negative side, its membership in the Grocery Manufacturers Association supported a leading opponent of labeling genetically modified food (GMOs).
Earlier this month, two of Australia's biggest supermarket chains pledged to phase out factory farmed pork and eggs.
Here's a list of Certified Humane producers: