We’re splattering you with breaking egg news again: this time, word of another big company making the switch to cage-free. Virgin America was already ahead of the rest of the airline pack for actually being pleasant to fly, and now they have updated their menu to include eggs from cage-free chickens. Virgin America joins other corporations such as Burger King, Wendy’s, Denny’s, and Subway in phasing out eggs from battery-caged chickens. But is this all coming from an altruistic place, or are these companies just capitalizing on the marketing goodwill that cage-free eggs bring with them?
Many of these companies’ cage-free egg policies tend to suggest the latter: The supposed “switches” are often just a small percentage of eggs, and/or are phased in over ambiguous time frames. For example, the policy Wendy’s rolled out? Just “2 percent of the eggs used in U.S. Company stores come from ‘cage-free’ hens,” according to its website. So does it really help the sustainable food cause?
“I’d say it’s one step in the right direction, with many steps left to take,” says Paula Crossfield, the managing editor of Civil Eats. “It makes a huge difference when businesses shift their buying to more sustainable options, and could shift the scales and force Big Ag to change its practices.” But she cautions that it’s up to the public to hold the companies accountable, and to “push to maintain a certain amount of transparency.”
In Virgin America’s case, spokesperson Katie Baynes says it was actually the public that made the suggestion that the company go cage-free. And its policy isn’t just a couple of eggs; it’s legit. Baynes says that Virgin America is serving cage-free eggs exclusively.