Wal-Mart Stores Inc., nation’s largest food retailer, is pledging to sell only cage-free eggs by 2025, joining a growing list of retailers and food makers making the switch.
The pace picked up when McDonald’s announced in September that it will phase out the use of eggs laid by caged hens over the next 10 years. Since then, Target and Costco have been among major retailers to offer specific pledges.
But with Wal-Mart garnering 25 percent of total grocery sales in the U.S., it will have outsized influence on suppliers’ practices.
Wal-Mart said Tuesday it will require egg suppliers to be certified and fully compliant with the United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines or an equivalent standard. It will monitor their compliance through a third party. The cage-free standard will apply to eggs sold at more than 5,000 stores including Sam’s Club locations.
The move comes as the food industry has been pressed by animal rights groups to eliminate using confined egg-laying hens, as well as other practices.
Last year, Wal-Mart urged thousands of U.S. suppliers to curb the use of antibiotics in farm animals as part of a set of principles it laid out to improve animal welfare. It has offered customers the option of cage-free eggs in its U.S. stores since 2001.
“The era of confining hens in cages in America’s food system is officially sunsetting,” wrote Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, in a blog published after Wal-Mart’s announcement.
Several Charlotte-area companies have said recently they’re taking similar steps with their egg supplies. The parent companies of Matthews-based Harris Teeter and Salisbury-based Food Lion have both have said they are transitioning to 100 percent cage-free egg supplies by 2025, as has snack maker Snyder’s-Lance. The Observer contributed.