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.”