A push for cage-free eggs may push up prices

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CENTRALIA - Efforts to be more humane to animals may end up costing us a bit more money at certain restaurants.

Panera and McDonald's recently released statements saying they will use 100 percent cage-free eggs in their stores in the U.S. and Canada in the next decade.

McDonald's is saying it will have all cage-free eggs for their breakfast menu by 2025, while Panera is hoping to implement it by 2020.

In a statement, Panera said in part, "Panera intends to move to 100 percent cage-free eggs in U.S. Panera Bread and St. Louis Bread Co. bakery-cafe food menus by 2020. This will include shell eggs, hardboiled and liquid egg whites in addition to those used in sweet goods, soufflés and dressings."

Cage-free is defined in the Panera Bread release as: "Panera defines cage-free hens as those raised in indoor barns that allow full range of movement."

But one Boone County free-range and cage-free egg farmer doesn't know if it is the best business decision for these companies.

"The huge problem here with that is that you have seasonal production. So, people want their Egg McMuffin or their panini every day of the year, and with chickens like these that doesn't quite happen," Dustin Stanton, co-owner of Stanton Brothers Eggs, said. "We get more eggs in the springtime when it's nice and sunny and less at this time of year when it's kind of cooler."

Stanton said this demand could lead to higher prices at different times of the year.

KOMU 8 News asked to speak to someone at Panera Bread's corporate office about the potential price hike, but they pointed me to their release.

Shane Guyette is a regular at Panera Bread, and he didn't seem very worried about the potential for higher prices. He said he thinks Panera Bread regulars will likely be on board with cage-free eggs even if that does involve a price increase.

"It's Panera, so I would expect to spend a lot," Guyette said.

The Humane Society released a chart to help shoppers worried about the conditions the chickens are living in while they are laying their eggs. 

The Humane Society also said "Cage-free hens are spared several severe cruelties that are inherent to battery cage systems. But it would nevertheless be a mistake to consider cage-free facilities to necessarily be 'cruelty-free.'"

It cites several practices that are still common in both caged and cage-free types of production, including killing male chicks after they hatch, burning off portions of the hen's beak and typically killing the hens within two years of hatching.

The Stanton Brothers often take in older hens to to avoid this process for the birds, referring to their farm as a "nursing home for hens."