Egg Farmers of Canada says it's going to convert all its quota holders to cage-free housing within about 20 years.
The announcement from chairman Peter Clarke came hours after Cara Foods announced that it's joining the restaurant chains announcing plans to source all of their eggs from farmers that do not house their hens in cages.
Cara Foods owns Harvey's, Swiss Chalet, Kelsey's and East Side Mario's; it plans to be using only cage-free eggs by 2020.
It was Mercy For Animals, not Cara, that made the announcement Thursday. On Monday Tim Horton's and Burger King, which are under the same ownership, made a similar announcement jointly with the Canadian branch of the international Humane Society. Their goal is 2025.
In the last year, Starbucks, Subway, McDonald's, Wendy's and several other restaurants, retailers, food manufacturers and foodservice companies have pledged to go cage-free at the urging of consumers concerned about animal welfare.
All have been pressured by animal welfare groups, especially the Humane Society of the United States, in a pattern similar to the pressure put on the hog industry to move gestating sows out of crates.
Clarke said it will take time to accomplish the conversion. The goal is to have half of the barns converted within eight years.
EFC, which represents more than 1,000 commercial egg farms in this country, said it hopes to have 50 per cent of egg production done through non-cage methods within eight years, rising to 85 15 per cent by 2031.
All production would be in alternative housing by 2036, which could includefe perches, curtained-off areas, free-run, aviary or free-range housing, EFO said, calling its timetable "a realistic forecast of what is achievable."
"In response to the best available scientific research and in light of changing consumer preferences, I'm pleased that the entire industry has agreed to an orderly transition plan that will further diversify our production practices," said Clarke.