PLEASANTON, Calif. – On Dec. 18, Safeway Inc. said it became the first major grocery retailer in the United States to make a national commitment to Certified Humane cage-free eggs and surpassing its sourcing and sales goals for cage-free eggs in the process.

Safeway launched an initiative with existing suppliers in 2008 to have all Lucerne Cage-Free and O Organics shell eggs sourced from Certified Humane farms. Then in 2010, Safeway set a goal of increasing sales of cage-free eggs from 6 percent to 12 percent of the shell-egg category by 2012. At present, more than 15 percent of overall egg sales in the category are cage-free eggs. The company also added the Open Nature label to the Certified Humane program this year. Safeway plans to continue to expand the campaign as their customers respond to the initiative.

"Safeway's commitment has been unique and impressive," said Adele Douglass, founder and CEO of Humane Farm Animal Care ("HFAC"), a nonprofit organization that developed and administers the Certified Humane labeling program for eggs, meat, dairy and poultry products. "Safeway's suppliers had to make the changes necessary to become certified. As a result, Safeway and its suppliers have had a major impact on improving the humane treatment of laying hens in the US Safeway's leadership is unparalleled within the retail food industry."

Regarding this effort, Safeway's quality assurance team worked with HFAC. HFAC is well known for its labeling program, which carries third-party, independent certification for the O Organics and Open Nature Brands.

Egg farms must meet the following animal-welfare standards to qualify for the Certified Humane label:

  • Cages are not permitted plus housing facilities must include areas for hens to nest, dust bath, scratch and perch.
  • Animals have ample space, shelter and gentle handling to limit stress.
  • Animals must have access to ample fresh water and a healthy diet of quality feed containing no animal by-product.
  • Egg lifecycle has no added antibiotics due to hens living in more humane conditions.

"We are supporting traditional farming practices and are committed to improving the welfare of farm animals," said John Larsen, Safeway vice president of dairy and refrigerated. "We will continue to work with our suppliers to offer our customers what they have shown us they want to see in our selection. We are determined to move the needle forward for progress across the business. It's the right thing to do."

Safeway stated it will continue working with suppliers to increase their production of cage-free eggs and reward those farmers who adopt humane practices.

Safeway Inc. operates 1,644 stores in the US and western Canada and reported annual sales of $43.6 billion in 2011. Humane Farm Animal Care is a national non-profit 501©3 organization created to improve the lives of farm animals by setting rigorous standards, conducting annual inspections and certifying their humane treatment.