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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The incredible, edible cage-free egg

Published: October 15, 2010
Section: Features

The Brandeis Real Food Coalition is pushing for the university to buy and serve only cage-free eggs due to the sometimes-cruel conditions to which factory farms and other producers subject their hens.

“Our main objective is to have the university and Dining Services” look at this issue, “and we started with a petition,” the group’s head Seth Grande ’12 said.

More than 1,200 Brandeis students have now signed the petition in support of the potential change in policy, which would result in Brandeis not only offering the option to ask for the eggs in dining halls but rather serving only cage-free eggs.

The petition began little more than a week ago, and has since been aided in promoting awareness by the Student Union’s decision to poll students and find out where the majority stands on the issue to present to university administration.

“I thought it was important to get students’ feedback on this issue,” Union President Daniel Acheampong ’11 said, adding that the Union would decide whether to endorse the drive or not depending on the poll’s results. The survey was aimed only at raising awareness of all the consequences.

“There could be an increase in the student meal plan,” Acheampong said as an example, and “I want students to be aware of that.”

Other schools that have made the decision to purchase only cage-free eggs have raised their meal plan “on average, by only about five dollars,” Grande said. He also mentioned other possible offsetting changes schools have used, like changing meal trays.

The move to cage-free eggs was attempted several years ago, and resulted in Dining Services’ offering them to students upon request if they are in stock.

The Real Food Coalition wanted to take up the issue again to make the cage-free eggs the go-to eggs on campus. The group is not recognized by any Brandeis list, including the Student Union, but includes members of other clubs and any other students who care about the group’s goals, and indeed spans several types of campus organizations.

“Our campaign has received amazing support from many groups on campus, but the Student Union, Change Agency and Students for Environmental Action have all done particularly outstanding work to help us bring the issue of cage-free eggs to the forefront of campus discussion,” Grande said. “The Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity has also been very supportive and have provided the campaign with some crucial help to get the word out. I think all the groups involved have been so willing to work with this campaign because it is an issue that resonates with the students of the university and aligns with the values that this university was founded on.”

Personally, Grande wanted to resume the cage-free agenda by organizing these groups himself.

“I’ve always wanted to get into animal activism, but it’s a hard sell,” Grande said. “This [cage-free eggs] is the low-hanging fruit—you don’t have to change anything except the way we source our food.”

The behaviors of manufacturers, he said, are reason enough.

“This campaign is important because the majority of eggs currently served by dining services come from hens confined in battery cages,” Grande said. “These hens are confined to a cage the size of a filing cabinet with fove or six other birds to spend the duration of their lives. Each individual hen ends up with an average of 67 square inches to live her entire life in smaller than a sheet of notebook paper. These cages deny hens the ability to engage in behaviors such as walking, nesting, or even spreading their wings.”

Acheampong said that he hopes to make the case of the survey’s findings to university Senior Vice President for Administration Mark Collins and Dining Services.