The words appeared over the image of a cracked egg on Politico’s Morning Ag summary this week. The weekly publication was sponsored by Mercy for Animals, a radical animal-rights organization that works to end animal agriculture by making meat alternatives more attractive and meat production more expensive. A lengthier message reveals the source of Mercy for Animals’ ire: Kroger broke its promise on cage-free eggs.
The national grocery chain pledged in 2016 that it would only sell eggs produced by hens that weren’t caged by 2025. It made a follow-up announcement pushing back that promise in 2022. The grocery chain cited supply-chain issues, affordability, and not enough demand. Apparently, the number of customers willing to pay higher prices for cage-free isn’t keeping up with Kroger’s promise. So it now promises to sell 70 percent cage-free eggs by 2030.
The store has good company though, as Walmart also broke its promise to only sell cage-free eggs by 2025. As it turns out, low consumer demand means producers aren’t switching to cage-free production. So there just aren’t enough birds to meet Walmart’s pledge.
Here’s a lesson to the big food companies: It never pays to work with extremist groups, whether they’re advocating for animal rights, the environment, or any other hot-button trend. The proof is in the results. Mercy for Animals is willing to spend a lot of money to hurt Kroger, despite the fact that its ambitious goal just isn’t feasible.
And they’re going for the jugular. Kroger is apparently in the process of acquiring a smaller grocery chain, Idaho-based Albertsons. Mercy for Animals points out that this acquisition will mean that Kroger will have control of more than 70 percent of grocery markets in 167 cities. Why point that out? Maybe because they want additional regulatory oversight of Kroger’s actions. The notion isn’t very far fetched when you realize that Politico’s readership includes a lot of … well, politicos.
Can you imagine how angry Mercy for Animals must be about this? Not only are they laying out a bunch of money to sponsor these types of things, they’re also trying to destroy Kroger in the process. It isn’t like Kroger is completely abandoning its pledge; it just wants more time and concedes 100 percent might be unrealistic.
So why is Mercy for Animals going for the kill?
It actually makes sense. Because the goal of animal-rights groups is to end the consumption of animal products, not make it more palatable for eaters who also love animals. Do you think Mercy for Animals would mind if Kroger and Walmart ran out of eggs because they couldn’t keep shelves stocked with cage-free eggs alone? Of course not. That’s what they’re hoping for!
I honestly can’t really feel bad for Kroger. It made its bed, and now it gets to lie in it. Hopefully this will be a hard lesson learned. But I really hope this will be a signal to other companies thinking about aligning with radical groups.
Here’s what we should do instead: listen to industry leaders. Ask farmers and veterinarians how we can improve production, or whether we need to do it at all. Good animal husbandry should be the goal, not placating a group that wants to blow up animal agriculture. And I think if you can show consumers that your business is doing that, then it’ll go much further than this promise did.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.