General Mills Vows To Improve Animal Welfare
General Mills announced new animal welfare standards today, including a promise to transition its egg sourcing entirely to free range hens.
The Golden Valley-based company, which owns brands like Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Progresso soups and Hamburger Helper, is making several changes with help from the Humane Society of the United States as it continues to reshape the way it does business.
All animals in the General Mills supply chain will also be subject to a new set of principles the company is calling the “five freedoms.” Among the principles: freedom from hunger, discomfort, pain, fear and freedom to engage in normal animal behavior.
The company hinted that the transition to cage-free eggs could take some time given the recent devastation to the industry due to avian flu that killed millions of egg-laying birds. “As the industry works to rebuild its supply chain, we will work with suppliers to determine a path and reasonable timeline toward this commitment,” the company said in a statement.
Other food-related businesses—such as Aramark, Kellogg, Nestle, Starbucks and Walmart—have made similar pledges to alter their egg-purchasing practices away from cage confinement facilities where the bird flu was most rampant.
News of shifting animal welfare strategies at the food giant come as the company makes several steps to rebrand itself to meet demands for food that is perceived as healthier and more natural.
In late June, the company said it would remove artificial colors and flavors from its cereals, with a focus on removing them those that appeal to children. Currently, over 60 percent of General Mills cereals have no artificial colors or flavors. This will become standard across its cereal portfolio by 2017. The transition was made to spur cereal sales, the largest of General Mills’ businesses, which have been sluggish .
Though consumers increasingly are asking for fruits and vegetables, interest in the frozen and canned varieties have plummeted. That’s left the company’s Green Giant brand suffering and contributed to $260 million in losses for the company during the last quarter. General Mills has owned Green Giant since 2001 and is reportedly looking to offload it to a willing buyer.
To combat the losses and better situate itself, General Mills announced it would cut about 700 jobs, with a goal to save $45 million to $50 million. General Mills’ earnings report, which arrived less than a week after the job cuts, revealed a seventh straight quarter of declining profits. Profit margins fell 53 percent from a year prior with most of the dropoff coming from the U.S. retail market, which General Mills chalked up to “the impact of changing consumer food preferences.”