Carrefour’s push for cage-free eggs underlines corporate social conscience

The company recently won the Asia Pacific Social Innovation Partnership Award for its enlightened cage-free eggs campaign

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(Carrefour photo)

(Carrefour photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Carrefour Taiwan, one of Taiwan’s largest retailers, has been pushing for cage-free eggs since 2018, and the campaign is having an effect by convincing egg farmers to raise hens in cage-free environments, thereby producing healthy and contaminant-free eggs.

Carrefour CSR & Communication Director Mailyn Su (蘇小真) told Taiwan News in an interview on May 11 the company paid a visit to the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) last year. This convinced the retailer of the problems deriving from battery-cage eggs and spurred it to improve the situation.

Producing battery-cage eggs causes serious animal welfare and food security problems, according to Su. “When 90 percent of egg-laying hens in Taiwan are confined in battery cages,” she said, they are unable to behave naturally, such as spreading their wings, nesting, perching, and dustbathing.

Taiwan has had many egg scares in the past, including expired eggs mixing with fresh eggs, and fipronil contaminated eggs. Every time, however, these questionable eggs are pulled from store shelves without addressing the root cause of the problem. Because these hens live in an unhealthy environment, fipronil is used to prevent them from getting sick.

“We visited traditional battery-cage egg farms and we could smell the stinking odor from far away. When we were there, we found some dead, discarded hens,” Su said.

“You could tell from the hens’ eyes and the sounds they were making that they were not happy at all, which is totally different from cage-free hens,” Su said.

She added that during discussions with EAST (台灣動物社會研究會), the company learned that cage-free eggs were becoming popular, especially in Europe. “So we thought, as an international retail company, we could obtain safe eggs for our Taiwanese consumers.”

Su said at that time less than 1 percent of Taiwan’s egg farmers provided cage-free eggs. However, since most consumers can’t tell cage-free eggs from battery-cage eggs, most cage-free egg farmers couldn’t make a decent living.

She added that most consumers have the misconception that brown eggs, eggs in baskets, or nicely packaged eggs are cage-free eggs – so they usually choose the wrong eggs.

“So, we suggested to company management that we should promote cage-free eggs by making them available and visible. We were glad the company decided to give their full support to the cause," the company’s CSR director added.

Carrefour held a press conference last year to announce the company’s cage-free eggs promises. These include setting up cage-free egg zones in all outlets in 2018, own brand cage-free eggs in 2019, and no battery-cage eggs in Carrefour by 2025.

“After the press conference, cage-free egg farmers contacted us because they felt somebody finally realized what they were doing. So, they hope they can work with Carrefour," Su said.

“Since last year, we began to sell cage-free eggs produced by six farms and certified by EAST. It inspects the sites to see whether clients follow cage-free guidelines, as well as checking whether the amount of eggs produced by the clients corresponds to the number of hens they have.”

Under EAST’s strict certification, Carrefour is able to make sure that cage-free eggs sold at all Carrefour outlets are safe for consumers, Su added.

“Since last year, more and more cage-free eggs have been sold in the market, with some big brands also focusing on this market segment, which helped bring down egg prices,” Su said. “So, we are changing some very bad practices in Taiwan’s egg supply chain and ushering in a good cycle.”

To lead the way, Carrefour also uses cage-free eggs in cooked foods, such as meal boxes and tea eggs, Su added. “We also told some food manufacturers who work with us that if you use cage-free eggs, we will promote your products and make them more visible to consumers,” Su said.

“We can see the era of antibiotics in products is ending, and the change is being brought about by consumers exercising the power they have through their buying decisions,” she said. “Before we pushed for cage-free eggs, these good eggs only accounted for 5 percent or 6 percent of our egg sales, now after one year, it has gone up to 15 percent on average.”

For the company’s cage-free eggs campaign, Carrefour was recognized as a winner of the Asia Pacific Social Innovation Partnership Award. The award-giving ceremony took place on May 11.

The company’s cage-free model has been extended to promote other suppliers who grow and produce other products under healthy and contaminant-free environments, including milk, tea, poultry, and rice, Su added.

(Carrefour photo)

Carrefour CSR & Communication Director Mailyn Su (蘇小真) (Carrefour photo)