Breaking news! The cage-free egg survey responses are in!
Here are the results:

In a stunning vote of 89.1% to 10.9%, the student body overwhelmingly wants cage-free eggs to be solely used in preparing our food. This is the most unanimous result of a union survey that I can remember.

In fact, a sweeping 63.5% to 36.5% vote is willing to pay incrementally more for food if it is prepared in an ethical manner. Economics professors correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that the higher cost of eggs would (according to standard models) be split between Aramark and the students.

High five everyone! We really got out the vote and showed that Brandeisians want to live in an ethical environment. More on this later.

13 comments on “Cage Free Responses Are IN”

  1. Nat Says:

    Yeah, but that survey still has 30% voter turnout.

    And Sahar, at least IMO you’ve forgotten your Econ 2a. The cost will be borne proportionate to the parties’ (students and Aramark) elasticity of demand/supply. Since students are largely required to buy meal plans, Aramark can pass the increase in costs on to them. Students have a basically zero elasticity of demand in response to price, unless they start buying cheaper meal plans or start moving off campus more.

  2. Nat Says:

    Moreover, cage-free is another term largely meant to cater to Western, liberal sensibilities and meant to justify participation in a system which you’d otherwise find exploitative.

    There’s no legal definition of “cage-free” by the Ag. Department, cage-free eggs can be produced by birds which are still kept in crowded barns (if the farmer doesn’t actively lie, which would be very hard to prosecute), mistreated, misfed, subject to beak- and nail-clipping, and countless other abuses which are present in modern farming.

    It’s a marketing term, and not much more.

  3. Sahar Says:

    That survey had more turnout than most Union electins.

    Thing is, there as elasticity of demand. Students could buy products made not of eggs, or order off-campus. If Aramark decides to increase the cost of all food, then we’re talking a different game:

    We’re dealing with a supply and demand curve in terms of tuition. So if the cost of meal plans goes up, then tuition might rise less than it would otherwise. Why? Because Brandeis is already charging what the market will bear.

  4. Sahar Says:

    As for “cage free doesn’t mean shit”.

    Hey, Aramark buys all its eggs from one farm. That specific farm also sells cage-free eggs. Those specific chickens are treated more humanely.

    Students will likely be involved in a process of choosing which eggs to buy, if they’re not just bought from that specific farm.

    So, yes. In our situation “cage-free” does mean something.

  5. Nat Says:

    Aramark gets your money regardless. If students eat bagels instead of eggs for breakfast, Aramark doesn’t care. They get (nearly) all of their money from meal plans, which nearly all students are required to buy as a requirement of their residence in a non-kitchen living space. Aamark’s costs don’t really change if what students eat differently once they’re on a meal plan. If they increase all meal plans two dollars a result of this change, it will likely have zero effect on student purchasing of meal plans, so the functional elasticity is roughly zero.

    I sincerely doubt that an incremental increase in meal plan costs would have any effect on tution costs, given how small the increase is. It really won’t make a difference in whether students attend. Is a ten dollar egg fee really going to make me choose a different college, considering that state and community colleges are already so much cheaper? I wouldn’t go to Tufts over ten dollars a year, either, if I really thought that Brandeis would give me a superior college experience.

    There’s a marginal improvement in the treatment of birds from non-cage free to cage free, and there are significant other assurances that need to be made before one can reasonably call the treatment of birds humane. It eliminates one practice but still does not assure that chickens are allowed adequate space to live, and that’s just one issue. An equivalent would be claiming that because a dog is not being kept in a cage, that it is being treated humanely, while anyone with a dog (and even people like me, who don’t have them) knows that dogs need far better treatment than that.

    This is the minimum improvement in conditions for chickens that needs to be made to keep people who care about them from taking a more active stance against abusive farming practices. If one fewer person writes to their congressperson because of this, it’s a shame.

  6. Nat Says:

    I’m not trying to say that this is anything other than objectively positive thing. I’d have voted for it if I were on campus. It should just be used as a springboard for a larger campaign, not as an ending point. My instincts tell me that the latter is far more likely.

  7. Cece Says:

    Nat, I fully appreciate your passion for the topic and agree with you wholeheartedly that \cage-free\ conditions are nowhere near humane. However, I think your capabilities could be better put to helping us use the momentum of this victory to make greater changes on campus rather than criticizing the step we have taken as insignificant and insufficient. I agree, it is insufficient- but not insignificant. You’re right, we need to be careful our egos don’t become so inflated as to think our job is done, but I’m not sure excessive criticism is constructive. Whether off campus or on, I’m sure you have a lot of great ideas on how to take this forward, and I’d love to hear them.

  8. Zzz Says:

    I’m with Nat on this. Cagefree is BS and it is students who end up losing money since they pay Aramark more money (which is used to purchase more expensive eggs that are no better).

    Aramark doesn’t gain much (if any), but students pay more regardless if they eat eggs or not.

  9. Nat Says:

    Cece, we’ve never met, so you don’t know that I’m the most negative person that exists. Please don’t take my criticism as an attempt to diminish what you’ve done.

    What the poll tells me is that there’s a lot of interest on campus about this, and that’s fundamentally a lot more important than whether the union acts to use cage-free eggs exclusively. IIRC, you can get most things made with cage free eggs already.

    I’m graduated (2010) and am far from knowledgeable about this subject, so I’m hardly the right person to ask about this. Things I can think of right off the top of my head are finding out if there’s any legislation relevant to humane treatment of animals or sustainable farming and lobbying for that through phone/letterbanking, increasing the size of the community garden and possibly having it include fowl, campaigning Aramark for increased vegetarian options in dining and for improvements in the treatment of the animals used for the meat on campus (I believe there’s free-range or organic beef available for burgers? something like this), bringing a speaker to campus or having an author like Michael Pollan or Peter Singer be the person who comes to campus for that incoming student “summer reading” thing (if it doesn’t have to be literature). I say this as a former Biochemistry major and current grad student in the sciences who is–again–remarkably uninformed on these things. I’m sure there’s a lot more that could be done even from the limited options available to students.

  10. Emily G. Says:

    “that I’m the most negative person that exists” good to know hehe

    Anyway, eggs from cage-free chickens are not just better for the chickens, they can be better for us. Just as the human body produces more cholesterol and other harmful substances as we get stressed out, many animals do the same. By allowing chickens to run around and pick at food throughout the day (including bugs and other plants, which caged birds don’t get to eat) the eggs actually come out healthier for US — more omega-3s, for example.

    For some sorta-current events check out McDonalds and their decision NOT to go cage-free in the US. While in Europe, the EU passed a law that bans battery cages (the standard in the US) by 2012, so McDonalds will be providing cage-free eggs to their Europeans customers. Interesting.

  11. Sahar Says:

    Yo Emily G. In the future, please use a real email address. It’s our policy to prevent flamewars.

    Also I agree with Cece.

  12. Seth Says:

    Nat, Z-dawg,

    While you both are correct that cage-free absolutely does not mean cruelty-free, it is a step up for the welfare of the animals. Chickens confined in battery cages on average are given 67 square inches of space each (less than the size of a sheet of notebook paper) to live their entire lives. Even though industrially raised cage-free hens are still packed in barns and often times never allowed access to outside, they are still able to engage in basic behaviors such as walking or spreading their wings which are denied to birds confined in battery cages. The only way we can be absolutely sure that our eating habits cause the least amount of suffering as possible is to adopt plant-based, compassionate, vegan diets. There are a lot of good resources for vegan diets on the internet, but here is a page with a few good links on it:

    Thanks so much for your interest in the campaign. We are working really hard to help Dining Services make the right decisions with their purchases.


  13. Carl the Carrot Says:

    I for one, am mindful of the condition of our carrots. Did you know the average carrot is allotted only 2 square inches of room? How inhumane! Happy carrots yield better cole slaw, and the National Society for The Human Treatment of Root Vegetables will fight for the carrot underdog!