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.
As part of our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we aim to move to 100% cage-free eggs for all our products by 2020, and we’re making good progress. We announced in January 2017 that all of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and mayonnaise dressings now use 100% cage-free eggs in the U.S., which are certified by the American Humane Association or the Association for Controlled Alternative Animal Husbandry.
All of Ben & Jerry’s eggs in the United States come from hens on Certified Humane cage-free farms. As of mid-2017, we use 94% cage free eggs for all of our products in North America (U.S. and Canada). And we’ve received external recognition for our progress, including from the Humane Society of the United States.
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 support to the 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 were pleased with the announcement in June 2016 by the United Egg Producers, the organization representing 95% of all the nation’s egg-laying hens, stating it aims to eliminate the culling of male chicks by 2020 through the introduction of in-ovo sexing of eggs. 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.