Nestle to use cage-free eggs by 2020

The Nestle logo is pictured on the company headquarters building in Vevey, Switzerland February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

ZURICH (Reuters) - Nestle, the world’s largest packaged foods company, said it aims to use only eggs from hens that live outside of cages, becoming the latest foodmaker to react to concerns about animal welfare.

The Swiss company, whose products including ice cream, mayonnaise and pastries all use eggs, said it wants to make the change by 2020 in Europe and the United States and by 2025 elsewhere.

A company spokesman said tens of millions of chickens would be positively affected by the change.

Nestle’s rivals that have already made similar pledges include Kraft Heinz, Conagra and Mondelez International as well as chains like McDonald’s, Wal-Mart and 7-Eleven [SILC.UL].

French food services company Sodexo, which provides catering at retirement homes and military bases, in August said it would beat its goal to source only cage-free eggs worldwide by 2025.

Some governments are considering laws aimed at protecting laying hens by giving them more room to roam.

In California, rules require that hens, pigs and calves must be able to stand up and lie down in quarters where they can fully extend their limbs. This year, the Humane Society of the United States, an animal rights group, introduced a new measure in the state that would require all eggs come from cage-free birds.

Reporting by John Revill and John Miller; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle