Cage-free eggs are all the rage these days. Not only is cage-free breeding thought to be more humane for chickens than having them live their lives in cramped battery crates, but cage-free environments can also help stave off disease because the chickens aren't in such proximity to one another, something the chicken industry is concerned with after recently dealing with the worst outbreak of bird flu in U.S. history.
Starbucks is a huge company, and with its pledge, it's following in the footsteps of McDonald's and Burger King. That's one reason for the proposed five-year timeline — there literally aren't enough cage-free eggs in production to meet the demands of these huge companies when they decide to make the switch.
For instance, 4 percent of the country's egg supply is currently used by McDonald's, while only 6 percent of the country's eggs are designated as cage-free. That means that if McDonald's made the switch today, only 2 percent of the country's egg supply would be cage-free and available to other companies, restaurants and grocery stores. This explains why instituting these plans (five years in Starbucks' case, 10 for McDonald's) can take some time; more farmers need to start raising their chickens cage free to meet the demand.
It's nice to see that these major companies are willing to make the switch to cage-free eggs, especially since the cost for cage-free eggs tends to be higher than those produced conventionally. But if you can make the more humane choice while still turning a profit (they might jack up the prices to offset the cost, but that's unlikely to stop people from buying Egg McMuffins or Starbucks' Bacon & Gouda breakfast sandwiches), why not do it?
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