Dining halls start to use cage-free eggs

By Katie Landeck

Recently, the University of Massachusetts has decided to incorporate more hard shell cage-free eggs into its dining commons. The decision came after students began to petition the University to make the switch.

“I was perplexed that UMass did not have cage-free eggs, with their already high standard of food service,” said Caroline Lehan, who worked with Nora Murphy to convince Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprise, to have UMass make the switch to cage-free eggs.

Lehan started a Facebook group called “Coalition for Cage-Free UMass” in an effort to attract more students to endorse cage-free eggs. In addition, she also started a petition that garnered 200 signatures in favor of cage-free eggs.

“We hope to help UMass make the switch,” said Lehan, who wants UMass to go completely cage-free by next semester.

UMass is now purchasing 120 cases of cage-free eggs from Pete and Jerry’s farm based in the White Mountains, N.H., according to Toong. There, the chickens are given room to perch, scratch and go outside, weather permitting, according to their website.

Chickens that are not raised in cage-free environments are kept in battery barns where they spend their lives in one-square foot cages, according to Lehan.

Before purchasing eggs from Pete and Jerry’s, UMass bought its eggs from Diemomd Egg Farm. While not cage-free, they are located 20 miles away and considered to be local. UMass currently purchases 23 percent of their food from local farmers according to the UMass Dining website.

Lehan argues that cage-free eggs are more humane, healthier for human consumption and even taste better, although the last hasn’t been proven.

Lehan met with Toong last semester to talk about making the switch to the eggs. Auxiliary Services spends $100,000 on eggs in general. According to Toong, the University buys mid-sized eggs instead of the large size eggs which are usually sold to supermarkets.

“Our goal is to have high quality food at all times,” said Toong.

Toong assures that the switch to cage-free will not impact the price of student meal plans.

The changes came as UMass starts to embrace sustainability, according to Toong, who cited the dining commons’ use of wild salmon as an example.

“Being cage-free created a good image for UMass,” said Lehan.

Harvard College has made the switch to serving exclusively cage-free eggs. Brandeis University and Tufts University have also started to serve cage-free eggs.

Anatoliy Devitskiy can be reached at [email protected] Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected]