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More Retailers Convert to Cage-free

In common with many of their fellow food retailers across the United States, Southeastern Grocers LLC, parent company of Bi-Lo, Winn-Dixie and Harveys stores; Brookshire Grocery Co. (BCG); Alex Lee Inc., parent of Lowes Foods; Tops Markets LLC; Wakefern/ShopRite; Woodman's Markets; Price Chopper/Market 32; Brookshire Brothers and Grocery Outlet have all committed to cage-free egg policies.

Southeastern Grocers aims to convert 100 percent of its private label eggs to cage-free during 2017, and will expand the policy to the rest of eggs it sells by 2025, based on availability. According to the Jacksonville, Fla.-based grocer, it will be among the first of its size to convert all of its private label eggs to cage-free within a two-year timeframe. In 2008, the company began giving purchasing preference to producers of cage-free hens and upping the amount of cage-free eggs it sells.

“In the past two years alone, we’ve seen an average increase of nearly 30 percent in the sales of our cage-free eggs,” noted Southeastern Grocers Group VP of Fresh Michael Bove. “It’s clear this is both a product and cause that’s important to our customers.”

Added Bove: “We are totally committed to working closely with our vendor partners to achieve our 2025 target, to balance our goals of providing customers with quality products at affordable prices and ensuring we are responsible in our approach to animals and the conditions they live in.” The company worked on its policy with several advocacy groups, among them The Humane League and the Humane Society.

“In response to an increasing number of customers requesting cage-free eggs, BGC formally announces its intention to transition to a 100 percent cage-free egg supply chain by 2025,” the Tyler, Texas-based supermarket chain said, adding, “The company will work with current suppliers during this transition in a way that ensures eggs are safely produced and affordably priced for all of its customers.”

Hickory, N.C.-based Alex Lee also plans to transition its grocery stores to a 100 percent cage-free egg supply chain by 2025, subject to regulatory changes. "This step is an outcome of the company's independent review of industry capability and readiness, and represents a commitment to continuously improving the food supply chain while maintaining the affordable prices that customers expect," the grocer noted.

"As a leading, locally owned regional grocer, Tops Friendly Markets has always embraced and supported a buying local philosophy," the Williamsville, N.Y.-based company said. "While Tops has provided an option for both conventional eggs and cage-free organic eggs for numerous years, we are pleased to announce our plans to source 100 percent of our eggs locally from chickens in cage-free housing by 2025, based upon available supply." Tops added that it supports "over 300 local companies and 200 local farmers to bring thousands of local products to our customers."

Schenectady, N.Y.-based Golub Corp., which operates the Price Chopper and Market 32 banners in the Northeast, has similarly revealed that it "will work with its suppliers to reach a 100 percent cage-free egg offering by 2025." Currently, 9 percent of the eggs that Price Chopper and Market 32 carry are cage-free, including ones sold under the banners' PICS private brand.

“The industry is moving in the direction of ‘cage-free’ egg production, and we have been moving with it," noted Jerry Johnson, president and CEO of Lufkin, Texas-based Brookshire Brothers, which operates 111 stores in Texas and Louisiana. "A goal of 2025 has been used by most as a target, but wouldn’t it be great to beat that? We must, however, first ensure that there is a safe, adequate and affordable supply of eggs for our customers.”

Added Johnson: "“The current production of ‘cage-free’eggs is not sufficient to satisfy consumer demand at an affordable price. These are issues the industry must work through.” He also observed that food subsidy programs don't yet provide reimbursement for the purchase of cage-free eggs, an issue that must be addressed by co-operation with the state and government agencies that administer these programs. Currently, most Brookshire Brothers stores carry several brands of cage-free eggs and egg substitutes.

Following an undercover investigation by Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals of Shady Brae Farms, in Marietta, Pa., a ShopRite egg supplier, the banner, operated by members of the Keasbey, N.J.-based retailer cooperative Wakefern Food Corp, has also committed to carrying 100 percent cage-free eggs in its stores by 2025, based on available supply. Previously, Wakefern had pledged to transition to only cage-free private-brand eggs by that year.  "Making the transition to cage-free will require time and financial resources for the industry," the co-op said. " While producers and retailers move toward their cage-free goals, we will continue to examine the latest animal welfare standards and best practices to ensure we provide you with the best choices available to help you care for and nourish your family."

""Many Grocery Outlet stores serve underserved populations who regularly experience food insecurity," pointed out Eric Lindberg, Co-CEO of the Emeryville, Calif.-based company. "Our first obligation is to these customers, and we are committed to providing them wholesome, quality food in the most cost-effective manner, However, animal welfare is extremely important to us, and that's why Grocery Outlet is setting a goal of working with its suppliers to transition to cage-free eggs by 2025."

Among smaller operators, Janesville, Wis.-based Woodman’s Markets, which operates 16 stores, has also pledged to sell only cage-free eggs by 2025, in tandem with its principal egg supplier, S&R Egg Farm, in Whitewater, Wis., and Iselin, N.J.-based Allegiance Retail Services LLC, which provides marketing, advertising,technological and merchandising support, as well as private label products, for the Foodtown banner and other independents, has revealed its goal to source 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2022. Further, Allegiance's proprietary Greenway natural/organic private brand will be 100 percent cage free by this summer and available in all of the stores the company services.

Meanwhile, on the CPG side, the shareholders of Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co. have voted overwhelmingly in favor of the company's transition to 100 percent cage-free eggs by  2025, as part of a broader animal welfare policy.

Additionally, Keene, N.H.-based C&S Wholesale Grocers, along with its family of companies, has taken the pledge to move to cage-free egg procurement for its private brands by 2025, with the rest of the eggs it procures, which are supplied to its grocery partners, to be aligned with those retailers’ cage-free policies. The company affirmed "its support for the egg industry’s overall effort to move in this direction, and will assess a quicker transition if supply levels could support its consumer demand."

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