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Sodexo faces national attention over animal cruelty

The air in the sheds is saturated with ammonia from the massive amounts of waste produced by thousands of birds." Photo courtesy The Humane League.

Northampton Community College’s website boasts its dining service is a place where “you’ll find great food, honest values, and a comfortable atmosphere.”

Those values came into question when students across the U.S. initiated the “Kick Sodexo off Campus” campaign, which was backed by The Humane League of the United States because of Sodexo’s use of “cruel and unsustainable battery cage liquid eggs” in campus dining halls.

Sodexo is one of the largest food service companies in the world, it currently operates in over 80 countries with more than 32,700 locations, including NCC.

A Change.org petition started by The Humane League to stop Sodexo’s use of liquid eggs from battery cage hens garnered 130,714 signatures.

Speaking to The Commuter, Charles Barfield, media liaison at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, (PETA) said that the “305 million chickens raised for their eggs each year are crammed into filthy wire-mesh battery cages so small that each bird has less space than the average size of a sheet of printer paper in which to move around.”

“Because battery cages are stacked tier upon tier, droppings from the birds on top constantly fall on the birds below. The air in the sheds is saturated with ammonia from the massive amounts of waste produced by thousands of birds.

To prevent the miserable birds from pecking at one another out of stress and boredom, farmers cut a portion of each hen’s sensitive beak off with a hot blade, usually without painkillers, a procedure that causes acute and chronic pain that can last for more than a month. Male chicks are useless to the egg industry, so they are ground up alive or suffocated in trash bags,” he added.

The nationwide pressure culminated in Sodexo issuing a statement on Feb. 19 promising to “extend its previous commitments to source all of its shell eggs from cage-free systems” and that it would use “cage-free hens by the end of 2020.”

The Humane League said Sodexo’s eventual move away from cage hens was “one of the largest blows ever to battery cages and sets a new precedent for the industry.”

Sodexo also pledged to stop sourcing meat from veal crates by 2017.

The use of veal crates has amassed much criticism from animal rights groups. The Humane Society addresses veal crate farming on their website, stating that calves raised for veal are “virtually immobilized for their entire 16-week long lives” and “confined in individual crates too narrow for them to even turn around.”

Currently, Sodexo uses around 20 million pounds of liquid eggs every year, and in 2012 pledged to stop using pork gestation crates by 2022.

For vegan students, at least 18 percent of Sodexo’s national recipe database consists of vegan options, including tofu pad thai, lemon chickpea salad and raspberry turnovers.

Sodexo’s Robert Meyer, general manager of NCC’s food court, promised that “all shelled eggs currently served on campus are sourced from cage-free eggs,” and that they are “on pace” with the 2012 commitment to stop using pig gestation crates.

Asked why Sodexo projected it would take them five years to move away from battery farming methods, he said, “the reality is that there isn’t currently enough liquid age-free eggs available to meet our supply demands.”

“Our phased-in approach to this commitment allows us to work directly with the people raising the chickens and supplying the eggs to ensure that we have enough product to source all of our operations,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Sodexo has come under fire for its business practices.

In 2005, a class action lawsuit was filed against Sodexo by African-American employees who claimed they had been denied promotions, which resulted in Sodexo paying an $80 million settlement.