Sodexo moves to address national petition to use eggs from cage-free chickens

Students line up at the dining cafeteria at Wise Center.

Students line up at the dining cafeteria at Wise Center.

For Amelia Heidenreich, the general manager of Sodexo at Norwich University, obtaining eggs from cage-free chickens for the school is a priority.

In January, Heidenreich, along with the rest of Sodexo management at Norwich University along with school administration, were informed about a nationwide petition from the Humane League, an animal rights advocacy group. The petition urged colleges to remove Sodexo from school campuses.

The petition occurred when students from other school in the US began reading reports that Sodexo was obtaining its eggs from sources that abused chickens by cramming them into small cages that prevented hardly any movement.

After learning about the call for the removal of Sodexo from school campuses, Heidenreich met with school administration to address this issue.

By working with the school administration, Sodexo was able to create a new meal plan to address the concerns in the petition, Heidenreich said.

“We know animal cruelty is not OK,, which why we switched to cage-free shell eggs, and as the market enables it, we will eventually change to cage-free liquid eggs.” Heidenreich said.

On Feb. 19, Sodexo pledged to entirely stop its demand for liquid eggs from caged chickens in five years and has updated its animal welfare policy to remove all cruel cages from its operations within two years, according to a blog post on the Humane Society’s website.

The time Sodexo needs to remove cages in all its chicken operation is due to the large scale of its operations, which involves 75,000 hens and 20 million pounds of liquid eggs, according to the Humane Society.

While shelled eggs from cage-free chickens are already served at Norwich, the liquid eggs that Sodexo serves are not, according to Heidenreich. Liquid eggs are eggs that are prepackaged in containers and they are used for egg dishes such as scrambled eggs or when cooking recipes call for large quantities of eggs.

Shelled eggs are used for hardboiled eggs or for breakfast items such as eggs over easy.

As part of an industry-leading decision in 2013, Sodexo began sourcing all 39 million of its shelled eggs from cage-free hens, according to NU Chief Administrative Officer David Magida.

The reason that Sodexo at Norwich does not provide cage free liquid eggs is because of supply and demand issues, Heidenreich explained.

After contacting another school that is served by Sodexo,, Heidenreich was informed that liquid eggs from cage free chickens would have to come from Canada. But the company that provides the liquid eggs for already had a short supply and the company was unable to keep up with demand.

Currently, liquid eggs from cage free chickens that Sodexo could use at Norwich University are “not available in the market” Heidenreich said.

Despite the lack of supply, Sodexo at hopes to obtain liquid eggs from cage-free chickens by 2020 as liquid eggs become more available, Heidenreich suggested.

“We know it’s an issue, but it’s something we’re working on,” Heidenreich said

Sodexo works through another company to obtain a list of approved vendors that provide the best price for the best product, Heindenreich said.

The approved list of vendors that the company creates with Sodexo provides a list that Sodexo at Norwich University can pick from for food to provide to students, according to Heidenreich.

“We’re able to provide cost-effective meals to Norwich University for their students and that’s by Sodexo sourcing their products that are cost-effective,” Heidenreich explained.

The daily rate the school charges is $14.05 per student for all meals throughout the day, which provides the funds for Sodexo at Norwich to purchase food and pay operating expenses such as insurance, bills, and employee payments, Heidenreich said.

Magida said Sodexo is doing what it can to try and address the issue. “Sodexo has been recognized globally as best-in-class for social, environmental and economic responsibility by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index every year for the past ten years,” Magida said.

“We have to look at our students, our faculty staff, the school, and make the best decision for our group of customers. We’re here to meet Norwich’s needs first and foremost,” Heidenreich said.

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