Dining halls plan to serve cage-free eggs


USC will begin purchasing eggs from cage-free farms this fall in response to environmental concerns.

“We know it is the right thing to do,” said Kris Klinger, director of USC Hospitality. “We already decided that going cage-free was something that needed to happen and when USC ALIVE started petitioning, it just confirmed what we already knew and planned to do.”

USC Always Living In View of the Environment, an environmental student group, launched a campaign in November encouraging the university to serve only eggs from cage-free farms. According to USC ALIVE, residence halls currently serve students eggs from battery-cage farms where hens are kept in small, unsanitary cages.

More than 4,300 students signed the online petition, according to Connie Gao, a sophomore majoring in business administration and the group’s director of External Communications.

“This is something that is obviously very important to environmentally conscious students and soon all students who live on campus will have the option to choose cage-free eggs which is a very environmentally friendly choice,” Gao said.

Stanford, UCLA and several other universities in California already serve eggs from cage-free farms, which allow hens to roam and eat grass.

According to Klinger, eggs from cage-free farms possess dark yellow yokes This can add nutritional value to the egg.

Having cage-free eggs is both an animal rights issue and an environmental one because battery-cages can raise the risk of salmonella. Raising hens in battery-cages is also a high pollutant because of the lack of cleanliness, which leads to the spread of diseases, according to Gao.

“It’s about time,” said Richelle Gribble, a sophomore majoring in fine arts. “USC has not exactly made huge leaps compared to other colleges as far as becoming more environmentally conscious, so this cage-free switch is a huge improvement.”

Klinger a said buying these eggs imposes a significant cost on the university — $60,000 a year. Hospitality chose not to raise meal plan prices because of the cage-free initiative, however, so the university will absorb the expense, Klinger said.  

“$60,000 is enough money to pay the salaries of three full-time employees so we had to move funds around to pay for the switch and retain all of our staff,” Klinger said.

Elsa O’Callaghan, a senior majoring in communications, said she is concerned many students fail to recognize how important the cage-free switch is for promoting animal rights and environmental sustainability.

“I consider myself someone who is really environmentally-conscious and I had no idea USC was going cage-free until right now,” O’Callaghan said. “I’m very happy USC is doing this, but honestly I don’t think many students will take notice.”

USC already serves eggs from cage-free farms at Moreton Fig, Seeds Marketplace and other retail establishments on-campus, Klinger said, adding that he has not seen a significant difference in students’ dining habits.

“For students to appreciate the cage-free switch, the university has to fully publicize it, and also educate students so they know what cage-free means because most students don’t know the difference between a cage-free egg and a regular one,” O’Callaghan said.

Gribble said although the physical difference might be subtle, the cage-free initiative assures students the eggs they eat are healthy and come from hens living in relatively humane circumstances.

“Just knowing where your food comes from is really comforting,” Gribble said. “USC listened to those students concerned about animal rights but this switch is not just a victory for them but also a victory for the entire student body.”

  • Alana

    This is wonderful! I’m so surprised by such negative comments here – it’s hard enough to get major change to happen at this school, so for ALIVE to manage to get dining to head in the right direction by refusing to purchase eggs from cruel battery cages is a positive step in the right direction. It may not be 100% cruelty-free, but if the people commenting really wanted to advocate for animal rights, they would choose to abstain from animal products and work to make that kind of large change happen at the school. Bottom line – what Connie and the students of ALIVE have done is amazing, and we should be thankful that a student group cares enough to speak up for these animals in the first place.

    And yes – this IS an environmental issue. Factory farms, like the battery cage facilities USC was originally purchasing their eggs from, are in the top 2 for contributors of water and air pollution in this country.

    Congrats ALIVE and USC for making this change! Hopefully it will lead to more!

  • Lera

    Battery cage eggs present animal rights and, according to the article, HEALTH issues, not environmental ones. I’m all for the cause, but terms like “environmental” and “pollutant” don’t belong in this article.

  • Vicki

    How much does USC currently spend per year on non-cage free eggs? $60,000 is a lot of money, but what is this cost compared to? How many eggs does USC consume per year?

    There are some numbers missing in this article, but it’s still great to see USC committing to healthier, more environmentally-friendly food choices. Props to ALIVE for their action too!

  • mamartinez

    Bigger cages; longer chains.

    Way to go USC students and “environmentalists.” You’re really advocating for animal rights, there.

  • Keeb

    How do the know the eggs came from cagefree chickens and not caged birds but in a cagefree carton?

    • mamartinez

      All of the chickens live in a cage. It’s just a matter of scale. Of course, ALIVE thinks they’ve actually done something good, when really, they’ve continued to condone animal torture and exploitation.

      There is nothing quite like a master who thinks he is kind to those he abuses.

      • Kinnan Murray

        Exactly! Who does ALIVE even think they’re helping? USC is surrounded by cages we choose to ignore….the thought cages professors trap students in, the merchandise cages that strip us of any free will, and the media cages which dictate our every move.

        Maybe ALIVE should forget the chickens and advocate for cage-free students.

        • Ming Pu

          I applaud ALIVE’s intentions to improve the environment of these chickens, but as Mr. Murray noted, USC students come first. USC is first and foremost an academic institution, not an animal-rights radical cult.

          The increased costs of $60,000 detracts from the overall student experience, despite ALIVE’s good intentions. And as the old saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

          • mamartinez

            I agree that USC shouldn’t spend this money on this issue, but probably for a different reason–I think USC shouldn’t spend money on any animal products at all. If individual students want to be responsible for the abuse of animals, they should pay for it on their own, on their own time and independently of the university.

        • Lera

          what the hell are you talking about?
          education sets you free.
          and you dont have to go to this school if you feel trapped.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting. I estimated last week that the savings of closing TroGro for 4 hours a night were roughly (at most) $50,000/year. Now they have a new $60,000 expense. Intriguing.