Eggs harvested from humanely raised cage-free chickens are now used in all campus dining operations, effective Monday. Junior Kathryn Pelka brought the issue to the attention of Aramark and Dining Services in June, with the goal of making the switch in the early fall.

“I was not expecting it to go this fast – it’s a pretty big change,” Pelka said. “A lot of people don’t know about the caged-egg problem – almost 300 million chickens are kept inside cages where they produce their eggs.”

The cages she mentions are called “battery cages.”

Egg-laying hens raised in the cages do not have enough space to spread their wings or forage, according to Manager of the Factory Farm Campaign at The Humane Society of the United States Paul Shapiro.

“The myth of old MacDonald’s farm doesn’t exist today,” he said. “Egg-laying is one of the most abusive practices in factory farm production.”

HSUS aims to increase cage-free awareness to university food service providers and grocery chains.

Other universities, including Vassar College, Marist College and the University of Arizona have gone cage-free.

Monday’s change affects about 1,000 pounds of eggs served in dining centers each week, and cage-free eggs are expected to be available in the Corner Store by next week.

“UR ought to be applauded for taking such a bold step to reduce farm animal suffering,” Shapiro said. “It’s fantastic that they’ve done this.”

Aramark Guest Service Manager David Feist was willing to work toward a solution from the beginning.

“I wasn’t educated in the issue, so I asked a lot of questions,” he said.

Other students wrote to Feist, and the UR Vegetarian Education Group joined the movement.

“All of the information from students was very informative,” Feist said. “They were trying to educate us why to make the change – how it’s good for the environment and the university. We agreed, and then had to see if it was a feasible idea.”

A new egg vendor had to be approved through Aramark’s primary food provider Sysco, Corp. The deal was sealed last week with Egg Innovations, a Wisconsin-based company with a local supplier in New Jersey.

Pelka is pleased with the resolution. “It’s good that this university can show that we’re compassionate toward animal rights,” she said. “I’m really impressed that within a couple of months we were able to change over.”

Director of Dining Services Cameron Schauf shares his enthusiasm in the student-initiated process.

“It was a team effort between us and students willing to impact their dining services,” he said. “We responded to folks with ideas and we’re willing to investigate ideas in the future.”

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