Bid for cage-free eggs in residence halls stalled

The Residence Hall Association said it is too expensive to make the change.

JP Leider

For some, one egg is as good as another. But for others, an egg is only as good as its source.

In past months, Compassionate Action for Animals, among other organizations, has advocated for University Dining Services to transition to cage-free eggs, in which egg products are produced in farms without battery cages.

Late last month, the effort stalled when the Residence Hall Association approved a resolution opposing a transition to cage-free eggs in residence dining halls.

UDS Director Larry Weger said UDS is taking into account recommendations and resolutions from various groups, and is pursuing options inside the University.

“At this point, the primary focus is to continue our work with the University’s agricultural department to affect the utilization the eggs produced on campus,” he said.

However, Weger said, no options have been ruled out, although UDS does recognize Residence Hall Association’s stated desire for program improvements rather than a transition to cage-free eggs.

At a recent UDS advisory board meeting, in which students approved a recommendation to transition to cage-free eggs, UDS officials said students would see a 0.4 percent increase in their meal plan costs, along with other increases.

Since the association’s decision to oppose cage-free eggs in residence halls, Compassionate Action for Animals has decided to pursue cage-free eggs in non-residence dining locations on campus, officer Donny Mansfield said.

He said that given the transition to cage-free eggs at other universities and colleges around the nation, his group didn’t realize it would be such an issue.

“We did not think this would be an easy battle, but we didn’t expect this much resistance,” he said.

The group collected 2,000 signatures from students supporting a transition to cage-free eggs, 1,000 of which came from residence halls, he said.

Mansfield said the group hasn’t done something like this before, and that the organization signed a statement saying it won’t push another campaign of this nature for several years if the cage-free eggs campaign is a success.

For the association, the issue is about improving students’ dining experience.

Jenna Strain, Residence Hall Association vice president and co-author of the resolution opposing a transition to cage-free eggs, said lack of student interest in the issue and students’ desire for other improvements contributed to the decision to oppose cage-free eggs in residence halls.

“When we talked about it at the advisory board (meeting), the general consensus was that a lot of people didn’t care and it wasn’t an issue that was important to them as residents,” she said.

There are residence hall vice presidents, who had solicited input from their respective halls, on the advisory board, Strain said.

“Right now there are so many other price increases, to ask students for another (increase) they don’t feel passionate about isn’t fair,” she said.

The association could ask for every improvement students want, she said, but realistically it won’t get every request.

“We wanted to make our priorities clear,” she said.

Strain cited guest passes and lengthening dining hours as priority improvements to dining services.

Mansfield said that during the meeting in which the association voted to oppose cage-free eggs, Strain presented the situation incorrectly, as strictly a choice between cage-free eggs or other improvements, even though a switch to cage-free eggs would “not have any consequences for the other additions that students wanted.”

The resolution encourages UDS to research and pursue cage-free options in non-residential dining locations.

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly and the Council of Graduate Students have approved resolutions calling for cage-free eggs on campus.

Jacqueline Jacob, an assistant professor and poultry extension animal scientist, said that although Compassionate Action for Animals has expressed otherwise, she believes a campaign for cage-free eggs is the first in a line of many.

The end result, she said, would be animal products that are too costly.

Jacob spoke opposite cage-free advocates at the UDS Advisory Board meeting in which students approved a transition to cage-free eggs.

“(Members of Compassionate Action for Animals) don’t want us to use animals in any way, so they’re trying to force their vegetarian lifestyle on us by making it too expensive to buy the product,” she said.

She said UDS and the animal science department are in initial stages of discussion about egg production.

The department has about 30 birds, she said.

“If we were going to supply (UDS), we have the facilities, but we would have to set something up,” she said.

The department’s facilities would need to support a large operation, she said, which could be integrated into a poultry management class.