Panera Pledges Only Cage-Free Eggs in Restaurants by 2020
St. Louis — Within five years, Panera Bread Co. says its U.S. restaurants will stop using eggs from hens confined in cages.
Panera, based in suburban St. Louis, said that by 2020, its menu would move to 100 percent cage-free, following other restaurant chains including McDonald’s and Starbucks that have made similar pledges in recent weeks.
Currently, about 21 percent of Panera’s eggs are laid by cage-free hens — chickens that are free to roam around chicken houses.
That’s up from 18 percent in December 2014.
The Humane Society of the United States applauded Panera’s announcement and said it had worked with the chain and other restaurants for more than a decade to pressure egg suppliers to improve conditions for hens.
“Of all the animals on the planet, egg-laying chickens in the U.S. have it the worst,” said Matthew Prescott, the animal advocacy organization’s senior food policy director. “There are nearly 300 million locked in cages so small they can’t spread their wings.”
In September, McDonald’s USA said the chain’s U.S. and Canadian restaurants would shift to cage-free eggs within a decade. Last month, Starbucks also pledged to use only cage-free eggs at its North American restaurants by 2020.
Sara Burnett, Panera’s director of wellness and food policy, said the switch to cage-free eggs is part of a broader focus on animal welfare. “We operate in a broken food system, and this is one way we can be a part of the solution,” Burnett told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Panera, which operates 1,946 restaurants, announced other milestones in its quest to reduce animal confinement by its suppliers: All of its pork supply, about 7 million pounds, is gestation-crate free, and the pigs are raised without antibiotics and fed a vegetarian diet.
Additionally, 89 percent of its beef cattle is grass-fed, or able to roam freely and graze in pastures, Panera said.
Panera said it planned to increase the amount of plant-based proteins on its menu, including edamame and organic quinoa. This summer, Panera added information on its website to better identify vegan and vegetarian menu items.
“Guests are searching for different options to meet their unique dietary needs and goals,” Burnett said. “We hope to be an influencer and have others follow us.”