PhotoGeneral Mills has some good news to cluck about. It has recently decided to join some other large corporations, such as Starbucks, Hilton, Kellogg, Nestle, Aramark, Compass Group, and Walmart, in not selling eggs that come from caged hens.

Animals that are involved in agribusiness have been forced into some of the worst conditions over the last century. Chickens, in particular, are often crammed into cages so small that they can barely move. They are stored in overcrowded warehouses where they are used solely for egg production. General Mills, and the other companies listed above, have pledged to transfer their egg purchasing away from farms that keep their chickens in such conditions.

“We commit to working toward 100 percent cage free eggs for our U.S. operations,” said a General Mills spokesperson. This will mean that all General Mills brands, such as Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Progresso Soups, and Hamburger Helper, will be changing what kinds of eggs they buy in the near future.

Monitoring animal welfare

General Mills has established a new policy entitled the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare. Basically, it’s a set of principles that monitors the welfare of animals in its supply chain. The company has also promised to look into other forms of animal mistreatment that are practiced by their suppliers, such as tail docking, de-horning, and castration without the use of pain killers.

The move comes at a time when the poultry industry has been hit especially hard by Avian flu. The disease hurt both suppliers and consumers, as egg prices nearly doubled in price due to shortages. Analysts hope that moving away from caged hens will help prevent diseases in the future.

Free range chickens are much less likely to spread diseases like Avian flu because of their ability to move around and stay away from other animals. Caged hens spread the disease rapidly due to their close proximity to each other in overcrowded warehouses. This can ruin whole stocks of eggs in a very short time period.

Other animals are benefitting from this cage-free movement as well. The veal industry is slowly beginning to eliminate the use of cages to store their animals, and pork producers are eliminating gestation crates. As a result, the welfare of all livestock animals is beginning to gradually improve.

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