General Mills' goal: Cage-free eggs for the US by 2025

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The eggs General Mills uses for U.S. operations will come from cage-free hens by 2025.

The news came through an update to General Mills' animal welfare policy (click here to read it) and was then picked up by news outlets such as Reuters, which says the food industry as a whole is under pressure from rights groups to improve treatment of animals.

It's the first time the Golden Valley-based food giant – whose brands include Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Jus-Rol – has outlined a timetable for the move, which it originally announced without a goal date back in July.

A petition regarding General Mills' eggs on Change.org started by The Humane League – a farm animal protection nonprofit – was declared a "victory" Tuesday, with the organization writing:

"Thanks to you, one of the largest food manufacturers on Earth has taken a stand against the cruel caging of egg-laying hens. By 2025, because you took part in this effort – countless animals will no longer be confined to cruel tiny wire cages for General Mills."

Big companies and cage-free eggs

Among the companies that announced plans this year to move toward cage-free eggs: McDonald’s, Starbucks, Compass Group, Aramark, Sodexo, Kellogg’s, Panera Bread, Unilever and TGI Fridays, according to The Humane Society’s news blog.

Just last week, Taco Bell announced it was aiming to use 100 percent cage-free eggs – by the end of 2016, Quartz reports.

The Star Tribune reported this change in approach from some of the country’s biggest food firms will “take years” as the egg industry has a “huge investment” in the current system that is dominated by caged eggs.

General Mills’ move to cage-free is in alignment with its plan to follow the “five freedoms” for animals in its supply chain, which gives them freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition, discomfort, pain, injury and disease, fear and distress, and the freedom to “engage in normal patterns of animal behavior.”

The Humane Society says on average, a caged laying hen in the United States only gets 67 square inches of cage space – less space than a single sheet of “letter-sized paper.”

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