Texas supermarket chain H-E-B will join a growing movement toward more humane practices by committing to sell only cage-free eggs by 2025.
In an update on its website, the company stopped short of a full commitment, stating that all of its eggs would be cage-free, "provided we have adequate supply, sufficient consumer demand, and pricing is affordable for our customers."
Cage-free eggs are considered a more humane alternative to having multiple chickens confined together in small cages and unable to move. Uncaged chickens don't have great lives either, but they can stretch their wings.
The United Egg Producers updated its standards to give each chicken 1 to 1.5 square feet of space, with 15 percent of the floor set aside as a "scratch area." It allows the birds "to exhibit some of their natural instincts such as dust-bathing, scratching, perching, and wing flapping."
Dozens of stores have signed on to sell only cage-free eggs, including Brookshire; Costco; Kroger; and McDonald's, which acquiesced in 2015.
But the biggest domino fell on April 5, when Walmart threw in the towel after campaigns by groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and Mercy for Animals. Walmart released a statement saying it would "transition to a 100-percent cage-free egg supply chain by 2025."
Where Walmart goes, the rest follow. H-E-B already sells more cage-free eggs in Texas than any other store.
"At H-E-B, we understand the high standards our customers, communities, and suppliers have come to expect from us," its statement says. "We recognize that the transition costs for our egg farmers to migrate to cage-free systems are significant and will require time to implement."
According to the Chronicle, the Humane Society had plans to run an ad criticizing H-E-B in its hometown newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, calling it "one of the only major grocery chains in America that's allowing its egg suppliers to continue locking chickens in cages indefinitely."
But a company spokesperson says that the prospect of that had nothing to do with H-E-B's decision.