Faculty and Students Fight for Cage-Free Eggs

UC Irvine faculty and students have united in their efforts to convince Jack McManus, director of the UCI Dining Services, to only purchase eggs that come from cage-free hens to support ethical animal welfare practices.
Currently, UCI purchases approximately one million eggs per year from sources that confine hens to battery cages. The students and faculty in support of the cage-free purchase of eggs protest the manner in which modern farming practices confine five to eight hens per wire cage and give each hen approximately less space than a standard sheet of paper to eat, move and lay eggs. In addition, they protest that the close vicinity prevents hens from normal lifestyle activities, such as foraging, pecking, scratching and nesting.
Alongside the protest of the treatment of hens, the group of UCI students and faculty also object to the use of battery cages because of their effect on the environment. Battery cages contribute to air pollution, water pollution and global warming. Environmental organizations that support a ban on battery cages include the Sierra Club, the National Resource Defense Council, the National Environmental Trust and the California Student Sustainability Coalition.
Over the past few years, more than 150 colleges and universities have switched over to the purchase of cage-free eggs. Examples of such institutions include Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, University of Rochester and Georgetown University. UC Berkeley switched to the exclusive purchase of organic free-range eggs, which are twice as expensive as eggs from cage-free chickens and are laid by hens which have been organic food and may have experienced the outdoors.
Restaurant, corporations and cities have also joined in the efforts of promoting eggs from cage-free chickens. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Wolfgang Puck and Burger King will no longer use eggs that come from hens in battery cages and even corporate cafeterias in companies such as Google and America Online support the cage-free cause. Four U.S. cities and four European countries have recently banned the use of battery cages.
‘One year ago, on April 12, 2006, I, along with an undergraduate student, Jason Williams, met with Jack McManus and requested that UCI switch to cage-free eggs,’ said political science and Asian-American studies Professor Claire Jean Kim. ‘I have had a total of five or six meetings with Mr. McManus over the past year. Each time, I have laid out the compelling reasons why UCI should join the national collegiate trend towards promoting more humane and sustainable farming. A year has passed and Mr. McManus has still not responded to our request.’
B.C. Cavern on the Green recently launched a pilot test to measure customer interest in supporting UCI’s purchase of cage-free eggs at the expense of 20 more cents per customer.
However, since UCI buys eggs in bulk, switching to eggs that come from cage-free hens permanently would only cost the customer five to seven cents more than conventional eggs.
Therefore, Kim said, the B.C. Cavern on the Green pilot program misleads customers about the price differences between conventional and cage-free eggs, which in turn may cause the pilot to fail.
‘UCI’s significant purchasing power can be used to promote humane and sustainable farming,’ Kim said. ‘By switching to the exclusive use of cage-free eggs, UCI Dining Services can unequivocally demonstrate its commitment to the Chancellor’s values of respect, integrity and empathy. This is a win-win situation for the animals, the earth and UCI. We hope that Mr. McManus will do the right thing.’