What is your animal-welfare policy for egg products?
Eggs are an ingredient used in many of our best-known food products, ranging from mayonnaises to dressings, sauces and ice cream. We take animal welfare seriously as a social and ethical concern and part of our commitment to sustainable agriculture, and we have a longstanding position on Farm Animal Welfare.
Unilever does not have egg production operations, but as a user of egg ingredients, we require the egg producers that supply us meet all regulatory requirements and industry best practices for animal welfare as a minimum. In addition, we work with our suppliers to participate in initiatives to define good animal welfare practices and improvement programs. For example, we are making significant progress in our commitment to convert 100 percent of our egg supply to cage free, with more than half of our North America supply now certified cage free by the end of 2013 by the American Humane Association or Humane Farm Animal Care. We have received external recognition for this work, including from the Humane Society of the United States and Compassion in World Farming.
We are also working toward improvements in the current standard practices of poultry breeding companies that supply egg-laying hens to the egg farming industry. We are aware of the concerns raised about the global egg-industry standards by which breeders of egg-laying hens eliminate male chicks, following methods that are included in American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines and European Union directives. While these are standard practices of suppliers to the broad egg-farming industry and all types of egg products, and although Unilever uses only a relatively small percentage of eggs produced in the market, we take these concerns seriously. In our corporate position statement on Farm Animal Welfare we have included our commitment to engage with the egg production industry, the animal welfare community and R&D companies to develop alternative options for the current practices.
We are committed to providing financial support to research and market introduction of in-ovo gender identification (sexing) of eggs, a new technology that has the potential to eliminate the hatching and culling of male chicks in the poultry-breeding industry. We are arranging meetings with animal-welfare experts, egg industry organizations, suppliers, and other stakeholders to develop a multi-stakeholder dialogue and tangible steps to address this important issue and explore alternative options. While our approach is to work in support of technologies that would eliminate the culling of male chicks in the industry, we are also exploring ways to further meet consumer needs for products with different nutrition profiles and preferences for plant-based protein sources through the use of egg-replacement ingredients in some product categories.