Just a few days ago, Walmart announced its position on the use of antibiotics and animal welfare in livestock production. This position is based on the principle of the Five Freedoms, in which the elimination of extreme confinement of laying hens is included.
Walmart works with suppliers to provide them with products under these principles and joins fast food chains like McDonald's, Burger King and Subway in a trend that has been determined as "unstoppable".
While I am in favor of the humane treatment of animals, large chains should also assess the introduction of these measures based on recent experience and market conditions. Let's consider the impact of changes in the housing standards of laying hens in Spain and throughout the European Union. Hens benefit, but what about the industry? What about the consumer? Perhaps in the EU, the US, Canada, Japan and other developed countries actions like these can be implemented, but I think they cannot be applied across the board, especially within developing countries.
Let's put a few things into context: Walmart Mexico and Central America is the most important operation of the company outside the US. They have about 3,000 establishments in those countries alone, and it is present in Chile, Brazil, Argentina and others. Mexico is one of the largest egg producers and the main consumer in the world per capita. Certainly, since supermarkets are not the most important channel for egg distribution, maybe distribution and consumption will not be affected. But, will they force companies to invest and change? With a consequent increase in production costs, will the consumer be willing to pay more?
Something else to consider: the production and consumption of organic or green products, cage-free eggs and others are a niche market. They are not yet mainstream. With the recent increases in food prices for the consumer -- especially eggs -- will Walmart be forced to sell eggs for a small fortune, hence the golden eggs?
It will be interesting to see what the effects of this announcement will be. What do you think?