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Morningstar Farms and 4,000 Hens

Animal rights activists and vegans are applauding the decision by Morningstar Farms to use one million fewer eggs in 2008 in an effort to combat factory farms, and in the process promote cage-free operations.

The company should be pleased with itself as well. It did the right thing, got great press and perhaps most importantly — demonstrated how a big mainstream company can change with consumer demand and actually, truly, benefit from it.

Morningstar made the decision after it became the focus of a letter-writing campaign organized by two animal rights groups, Compassion Over Killing and Vegan Outreach. According to COK’s executive director, Erica Meier, Morningstar was chosen because it already had a reputation as a progressive manufacturer of vegetarian foods. Yet the company was using eggs from large farms prone to employing wire mesh battery cages that basically reduce the hens to egg-laying machines.

The press release notes that, by giving up the eggs, Morningstar Farms will reduce “factory farm” demand by 4,000 hens. It also notes there will be more egg-less products, which really cheered the vegans.

The company gets the most points, however, for realizing that consumer dynamics have changed. These days, healthfulness in a food product is a given. Shoppers are asking, “What else have you got?”

Humane treatment of animals is certainly one option that ranks near the top of the list, and Morningstar Farms was smart to acknowledge just how dearly many consumers feel about the matter.