Trader Joe’s says it’s going to be the latest food-world giant to make the increasingly popular move over to sourcing only cage-free eggs. The official announcement is somewhat brief, but in it, the company outlines a plan under which eggs sold out west (i.e., California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado) will transition first by 2020, then eggs everywhere else will follow by 2025, a decade-ish time interval that’s fairly standard for the industry. The chain adds that “If market conditions allow us to accomplish these goals earlier, while still providing our customers outstanding value, we will do so.”
Oddly, Trader Joe’s dumped this news on Friday afternoon, right before a three-day holiday weekend, suggesting maybe the hope was to avoid tons of coverage. It’s without a doubt a big move for any grocery chain — Trader Joe’s is one of the first to make the commitment — but the sneaky release could be because it fears the people are liable to see the move as coming a little late. Because the chain sort of trailblazed support of the cage-free farming movement (it first started selling cage-free eggs in 2005, and 62 percent of its eggs are currently cage-free), and because even a wholesale chain like Costco, with otherwise-questionable animal-welfare practices, has already made the cage-free commitment, a number of shoppers may have assumed Trader Joe’s percentage of cage-free eggs was already 100.
Not helping matters, either, is a Change.org petition that went up three weeks ago called “Tell Trader Joe’s to Go 100% Cage-Free.” It was launched by an otherwise “loyal” customer who explains how “surprised and disappointed” she was to learn Trader Joe’s still sells eggs laid by hens in shoebox-size cages. These kinds of things spring up all the time, but her sudden shock was apparently widely felt — the petition quickly went viral, racking up over 100,000 supporters so far. “Target, Costco, and Starbucks have recently joined the cage free movement after public pressure from consumers,” the creator wrote. “Are we to believe Trader Joe’s cannot go cage-free when everyone from Target to McDonald’s is willing to listen to the public?”