Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario Commentary
By Franchesca Weeks, CFFO Communications Manager
With the power of social media and the internet, activists and animal right groups have influenced people’s perceptions of food production and their decisions on what to eat. With the new generation of customers demanding more ethical and healthier options in their diets, some of the world’s biggest food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King and Tim Horton’s have made a pledge to use eggs from hens not confined to a cage. With these demands the agricultural industry has taken notice. In this three part series we will be looking at three different aspects of the cage free egg trend. This first commentary looks at cage free eggs from a marketing strategy perspective. In the second we will look at the farmers’ perspective and in the third we will discuss the ethical debates behind this policy.
Every human has a basic emotional need for love, power, emotional security and ego gratification. These are all subconsciously emotion-based and can be the foundation for emotional branding. This refers to the practice of building brands that create a bond between the consumer and the product by provoking the consumer’s emotions. The direct link of the consumer’s perception of chickens being “crammed into a cage with 4,000 other birds” plays negatively on the consumer’s emotional thinking. Marketing companies for the world’s largest fast food chains promote that need of having eggs from hens that are free to roam about and spread their wings. This gains the trust of the consumers and builds profitability for their brand.
In 2013 A&W launched a similar campaign for beef “raised without hormones” implying that consumers want to eat burgers that don’t contain hormones or drugs. They then outsourced their meat from the U.S and Australia to fulfill the consumer trend. Other consumer trends such as “fat free,” “gluten free” and “GMO free” have all played a huge role in the marketing strategies of large companies to gain profitability and loyalty with their customers.
The cost of putting the cage free egg policy into place and having every farmer change their battery cages to a cage free system will be high and can even lead to higher farmer debt. Is the consumer willing to pay the difference? In an article by the Globe and Mail, egg farmer Rob Martens produces about 9,500 certified organic (free range) eggs for Costco and Kirkland organic line each day. He has his doubts about whether or not the industry will change completely. His eggs sell for no less than $6 a carton and he states that only a certain percentage of customers will buy these. Some may argue that if the cage free egg system is fully implemented, it may make eggs too expensive for consumers to afford, which will create demand for cheaper eggs from somewhere other than Canada.
The question is, is this a short term marketing strategy, or is this the reality of the chicken industry of the future?