Panera Bread moving to free-range meat and cage-free eggs


Growing trend likely to bring big changes to food industry

Panera Bread is the latest restaurant chain to make changes in food policy, to more closely align with the values of Millennials.

The company has announced changes regarding the way livestock is raised and inoculated with antibiotics. It says it plans to switch to 100% cage-free eggs for all its products by 2020.

By the end of this year, Panera says 100% of chicken and 100% of roasted turkey in sandwiches and salads will be raised without antibiotics and 89% of beef cattle will be grass fed and free range.

“For more than a decade, we’ve been working to reduce antibiotic use and confinement across our supply chain,” said founder and CEO Ron Shaich. “While there is more work to be done, we are within reach of a menu without antibiotics and unnecessary confinement.”

Help from HSUS

Shaich says the company is committed to transparency, which is why it is releasing details of its progress. The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS), which says it worked with Panera on this move, was effusive in its praise.

“Props to Panera for focusing more plant-based proteins and for getting chickens of out of cruel cages,” said Matthew Prescott, senior food policy director for The Humane Society of the United States. “Americans are eating more plant-based foods than ever and avoiding the worst factory farm abuses.”

To get to 100% cage free eggs, Panera has a long way to go. The company said it currently is at about 21%.

Industry trend

Earlier this year McDonald's announced it will fully transition to cage-free eggs at its 16,000 restaurants by 2025. At the time, HSUS noted such a move would bring about huge changes in the egg industry.

That's because McDonald's scale is huge. On an annual basis, U.S. stores use approximately two billion eggs and McDonald’s Canada purchases 120 million eggs to serve on its breakfast menus.

McDonald's also took pains to point out that it already sources some of its eggs from cage-free suppliers, pointing out for good measure that one supplier – Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Michigan – is “family owned,” another trait prized by Millennial consumers.

But cage-free egg operations tend to be smaller and fewer than commercial cage operations. That undoubtedly will change as demand for their product grows.

And it appears to be a growth part of the industry for the foreseeable future. In July, General Mills announced it, too, was moving toward use of 100% cage-free eggs in its food products.

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