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Walmart Stores Inc. and Ingles Markets Inc. are the two latest food retailers to transition to a cage-free egg supply by 2025. The respective pledges follow in the wake of similar declarations from other food retailers, in addition to restaurant chains, manufacturers and egg producers.
According to Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S., the divisions' move to cage-free “represents a commitment to continuously improving the company’s food supply chain while maintaining the affordable prices that customers expect.”
Added Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer at Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart: “Our customers and associates count on Walmart and Sam’s Club to deliver on affordability and quality, while at the same time offering transparency into how their food is grown and raised. Our commitment to transition to a cage-free egg supply chain recognizes that expectation and represents another step we are taking to improve transparency for food we sell in our U.S. stores and clubs.”
Under its transition plan, which is subject to available supply, affordability and customer demand, Walmart will require 100 percent of its shell egg suppliers to be certified and fully compliant with United Egg Producers (UEP) Animal Husbandry Guidelines or an equivalent standard, monitor compliance via annual third party, and request that suppliers use selective breeding practices, innovation and best management practices to improve laying hens’ health and welfare.
The company will assess and report on suppliers’ continuous improvement against these metrics through its Sustainability Index, a tool that tracks the environmental impact and sourcing of products throughout the supply chain.
Since 2001, Walmart has offered shoppers the option of cage-free eggs in its U.S. stores. The mega-retailer has 11,535 stores under 72 banners in 28 countries, and e-commerce websites in 11 countries.
Asheville, N.C.-based Ingles aims to have 100 percent of both the shell and liquid eggs it carries come from cage-free hens by 2025. The grocer operates 202 supermarkets in six southeastern states, as well as neighborhood shopping centers, most of which contain an Ingles supermarket, and a fluid dairy facility that supplies company supermarkets and unaffiliated customers.
“Ingles supports the industry’s cage-free trajectory, and looks forward to working with our suppliers to achieve a cage-free supply chain,” said Ron Freeman, the company’s CFO. “This shift represents a natural part of Ingles' ongoing work to ensure animals in our supply chain are provided with the ‘Five Freedoms’ of animal welfare, including the ability to engage in their natural behaviors.”
Other food retailers that have pledged to transition to cage-free eggs include Ahold USA, Albertsons, Delhaize America, Kroger, Meijer, Raley’s, Supervalu and Weis Markets, while among manufacturers, ConAgra Foods, Kraft Heinz, Schwan’s and Snyder’s-Lance have recently revealed similar plans.