Student group advocates for cage-free eggs

USC ALIVE, an environmental student group, has launched a university-wide campaign to inform students that USC Hospitality does not purchase its eggs from cage-free farms, as UCLA and several other University of California schools do, in hopes to creating change at USC.

Animal rights · James Nalto (right), a senior majoring in accounting and finance, signs a petition to stop using eggs from caged chickens. - Dan Doperalski | Daily Trojan

USC buys its eggs from battery cage factory farms, which USC ALIVE says treats chickens cruelly.

“In battery farms, hens are stuffed into cages with no room,” said Connie Gao, ALIVE’s director of external communications. “The cages are stacked on top of each other, so feces filters down. The hens end up covered in feces and so does their eggs.”

As of Friday, more than 1,000 students signed ALIVE’s petition to try to convince the university to go cage-free, Gao said.

“I hope it will be enough to change the university’s mind,” she said.

When hens are raised in a cage-free environment, they can exercise, spread their wings, and lay eggs in nests, Gao said, making the cage-free environment more sustainable and yield healthier eggs.

Kris Klinger, director of USC Hospitality, said he met with the president of Wilcox Farms, a company that sells cage-free eggs to several universities, to discuss making USC a new customer.

“They said they didn’t have enough product in their distribution channels right now, but we do plan on switching. We’re just not sure when,” Klinger said.

One of the university’s primary concerns is the cost of cage-free eggs, Klinger said, a consideration that factors into all of USC Hospitality’s decisions. For example, USC Hospitality’s decision to offer students the Trojan Plan, an unlimited meal plan, is expensive for the university.

“It did cost the university more money,” Klinger said.

According to Klinger, Wilcox Farms, Stanford’s new provider, is currently unable to fulfill the demands of another large university such as USC. He said the earliest USC would go cage-free is next fall.

“We understand it is the right thing to do,” Klinger said. “We just want to make sure it makes financial sense.”

The cost per egg should not be a factor, said Lindsay Wolf, campaign director of the Humane Alliance in Southern California, a new branch of the Humane League, which has been promoting cage-free eggs with universities on the East Coast.

“Cage-free adds a couple of pennies per egg, and in the long run students will pay about 10 cents more for an omelet,” Wolf said.

At every university Wolf has worked, she said she has found the majority of students to be supportive of the cage-free alternative.

“Ninety percent of students say they’ll pay more for a healthier and tastier egg,” she said.

Many universities in California, including UCLA and Stanford have made the switch to cage free.

Because voters passed Proposition 2, operating a battery cage farm will be illegal beginning in 2015.

“Battery cages are criminal activity,” Gao said. “They treat their animals and workers badly.”

When chicken feces are not disposed of, they accumulate, exposing workers to high amounts of ammonia, Gao said, adding that feces-covered eggs are much more likely to be contaminated with salmonella.

USC ALIVE created the petition to eradicate USC Hospitality’s qualms about the increased cost.

“Right now USC is hesitant because they’re not sure if students will be willing to pay a little more,” Wolf said. “The petition shows [the university] that students are aware and want to make the switch.”

5 replies
    • LindsayW
      LindsayW says:

      That would be me, John. I’m the Campaign Director for The Humane Alliance of Southern California and the one helping ALIVE with their cage-free campaign.

  1. Nick Cooney
    Nick Cooney says:


    Great article, thanks so much for letting us know about this issue! It’s great that USC plans on switching to cage-free and that ALIVE and other students are pushing for this change! I hope that USC will commit to going cage-free for the fall, for the sake of the environment, the animals, and student health!


  2. Nathan
    Nathan says:

    Not sure what you mean by saying that “USC Hospitality’s decision to offer students the Trojan Plan, an unlimited meal plan, is expensive for the university.” Trojan Plan is just a prepaid account of $3050 that students can debit against during the semester. I would presume that it would be highly profitable for the university, considering that they lock in freshmen who have it to buying food only on campus, and that they charge rather exorbitant amounts for use of their facilities ($12 for dinner at EVK/Parkside if I remember correctly).

    It’s more likely that you meant to refer to the reformed Cardinal Plan, which was changed this year to allow unlimited meals in EVK and Parkside. This meal plan, which is the default for freshmen in regular housing, probably does cost the school more than it used to when it was capped at ten meals per week. As I recall, they cut the price of the plan by ~$300, took away the dining dollars that came with it (also ~$300), and changed it to having unlimited meals.

    Because Trojan Plan was left at its previous price, instead of costing $300 more a semester, it costs $600 more. If fewer people sign up for it because of the price difference, that makes for more lost earnings due to the change in the Cardinal Plan.

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