Just two months after the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) launched a campaign aimed at popular restaurant group, Famous Brands – in a bid to end inhumane battery cage farms for egg-laying hens in South Africa – the group’s CEO announced their intention to go cage-free by 2025.
Famous Brands – which include popular restaurant brands such as Wimpy, Mugg and Bean, House of Coffees, Steers, Tashas, among others – first went public with its intended commitment on Cape Talk’s Money Show with Bruce Whitfield, early last week.
SAFCEI’s Campaign Coordinator, Mandla Gqamlana says that he was very happy to hear CEO, Darren Hele says on-air that the group commits to the transition by 2025. He adds that the news came as a welcome surprise since the NGO had had no formal confirmation from the group despite the active campaign against their role in the inhumane treatment of hens.
“We are happy that Famous Brands’ CEO has publicly stated their commitment. This is what we asked them for. Now, we would like to see that commitment in writing on their website. It is important that customers can see their commitment to end cruelty, and to responsible business,” says Gqamlana.
He adds that SAFCEI also wants that commitment to include not only shell eggs, but also other egg products – such as whole egg powder and liquid, and egg white powder and liquid – that the group may use.
Gqamlana does, however, voice concern about Mr Hele’s stated reasons for not moving from cages sooner than 2025. He says, “According to Mr Hele, the group goes through fifty million eggs per year. That’s a lot of eggs! Can you imagine how many hens are needed to produce that many eggs? And for their entire lifespan, these hens are stuck in tiny cages, never allowed to spread their wings, peck the earth, or see the sun or the outdoors.”
Gqamlana says, “Egg-laying hens experience a lot of pain in their short lives. While forced to live in a wire box smaller than the size of an A4 paper, their laying cycles are manipulated through starvation, to increase production. And, as a result of being confined in these cages, the hens end up suffering from diseases, feather loss and broken bones. Battery farming subjects hens to unnecessary cruelty, distress, discomfort and extreme pain throughout their lives. This is where the eggs come from when we eat at one of Famous Brands’ restaurants.”
According to Gqamlana, the sheer volume of eggs used by the group gives the organisation considerable buying power and the ability to be a game changer in the conditions under which hens are living.
Says Gqamlana, “With that amount of eggs, Famous Brands should have quite a bit of influence in the type of product it requires from its suppliers. Why not use that power to encourage farmers to go cage-free as soon as possible, or lose their business?”
“Famous Brands is an organisation that cites integrity, innovation and quality as some of its core beliefs, and also pride themselves on their supplier relationships. It would be good to see it use its influence to ensure humane animal welfare standards – which will provide the quality food its consumers deserve,” he adds.
“In addition to this, Mr Hele further argues that there is a lack of cage-free eggs, locally. But, this is not so. Earlier this year, one of the major egg suppliers in South Africa confirmed that they are able to supply large volumes of cage-free eggs. Their problem, however, is that there is no demand. My question is then, why is Famous Brand not tapping into the cage-free eggs already available? There is currently an oversupply of cage-free eggs in South Africa, but these need to be sold as caged eggs, due to the lack of demand.” says Gqamlana.
In 2016 the animal protection organisation, Humane Society International, declared a victory for McDonald’s that committed to a cage-free procurement of eggs. Other food service companies that are already serving cage-free eggs include Sodexo, Kauai and Nestle.
“SAFCEI views animal welfare and care for nature as an expression of each person’s faith. Ethical farming practices not only means healthier hens and better quality eggs; cage-free eggs are also a healthier option for the people who eat eggs. Battery farming poses a number of risks to human health. Not only does it contribute to an increase in Salmonella-infected eggs, but battery farms also cause air and water pollution,” concludes Gqamlana.
A link to the interview is available on www.safcei.org