Nestle to Shift to Cage-Free Eggs in U.S. by 2020

Nestle SA pledged Tuesday to purchase only cage-free eggs for its U.S. food products by 2020, making it the largest packaged-food company to commit to such a switch and advancing a broader industry push toward more-humane animal-welfare policies.

Nestle, the world’s largest food maker by sales, unveiled a more-aggressive timeline than several rivals that recently said they would move to cage-free eggs, including General Mills Inc. Nestle said it uses 20 million pounds of eggs each year to make products such as Dreyer’s ice cream, Buitoni pasta and Lean Cuisine breakfast items. The move comes as packaged-food makers and restaurant chains face increasing pressure from animal-rights activists and consumer groups to improve treatment of animals that supply meat, eggs and other foods. The U.S. egg industry for decades primarily has raised egg-laying hens in small cages that significantly restrict the birds’ movement.

“Our products are in the fridges and pantries of socially conscious consumers across the United States, and we share their belief in the importance of responsibly sourced ingredients,” Paul Grimwood, chief executive of Nestle USA, said in a statement.

Many food makers and restaurant chains recently have vowed to switch all or part of their egg needs to cage-free supplies. Both General Mills and Kellogg Co. in the past few months said they would source only cage-free eggs in the U.S. by 2025. Nestle in 2014 said it planned to phase out the use of eggs from caged hens but it didn’t announce a firm timeline for the U.S. until Tuesday. 

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