Kroger Accused of Misleading Shoppers Ahead of Widespread Egg Bans
A new report says advertisements lead shoppers to mistakenly believe they're purchasing cage-free eggs.
With so many brands to choose from, prices to compare, and of course, the temptation of those notorious impulse buys at every turn, a trip to the supermarket can be overwhelming. But when it comes to buying eggs—even though prices have skyrocketed—putting this staple in your cart is usually something done without too much thought. But the grocery store Kroger recently came under fire for the way it markets its eggs, meaning you might not be buying they variety they say you are. Read on to find out why Kroger was accused of misleading customers—and why officials are urging them to improve.
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Kroger customers may not realize the kind of eggs they're buying.
According to a February report published by Data for Progress, raising chickens in cages presents public health, environmental, and animal welfare concerns. In 2016, Kroger pledged to be cage-free by 2025. Last year, however, the grocery chain "reneged on these commitments," according to the new report, titled "Cracking Down on Kroger."
Data for Progress claims that customers are confused about what type of eggs they are buying. Many of them select eggs that are labeled "Farm Fresh" or "Grade A" thinking they are cage-free, when in fact they are not.
The polling firm conducted a survey that found over 40 percent of Kroger customers buy caged eggs, truly believing that they are cage-free because they are labeled as "Farm Fresh." However, high rates of customers don't actually understand what this term means: According to survey results, 45 percent of Kroger shoppers don't know what the "Farm Fresh" label means, and 54 percent don't know what the "Grade A" label means.
"Kroger customers reveal that the company's marketing of caged chicken eggs is both confusing and misleading," the report states, calling for the grocery store to do more to ensure that its advertisements are transparent and recommit to its cage-free promise.
The Michigan Attorney General addressed Kroger directly.
In response to the report, Michigan Attorney General (AG) Dana Nessel took action and sent a letter to Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen. In the March 23 letter, written by Jason Evans, division chief of the corporate oversight division for the AG office, Kroger is urged to "add clear signage…to help consumers understand which eggs, exactly, came from caged chickens and which did not."
This will allow shoppers "to make informed choices on how they spend their hard-earned dollars," Evans wrote, adding that this is especially important given pressures from ongoing inflation.
In a press release announcing the letter, Nessel added, "Grocery shoppers throughout the state should be able to decipher and trust the advertising in whichever grocer they shop. Grocers must be transparent and honest in their in-store marketing. It is troubling to read reports saying that is not what all customers are experiencing."
In a statement to Best Life, a Kroger spokesperson said that the Kroger Company of Michigan "complies with all current state regulations regarding the sale of egg products."
"All Kroger Family of Companies egg products are clearly marked and labeled for customers to readily decipher among our product selection," the spokesperson added.
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Michigan recently banned eggs from caged hens.
In the letter, Evans stressed the importance of transparency about egg varieties in Michigan, specifically.
"Being clear about which eggs are from caged hens is particularly important in Michigan, as Michigan law will prohibit—beginning in 2025—the sale of eggs from caged hens," Evans wrote.
Michigan is just one of nine states that have enacted bans. California and Massachusetts were the first two states to pass legislation in 2018 and 2016, respectively, followed by Rhode Island, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah, according to Nellie's Free Range Eggs. Bans went into effect as early as 2022, with other states requiring retailers to sell eggs from cage-free (or better) hens over the next few years.
It's important to note that of the nine states that have enacted egg bans, Kroger only has a presence in Michigan, where it operates approximately 84 stores.
Kroger is still working to improve.
In Aug. 2022, Kroger said that it wouldn't be able to be entirely cage-free by 2025 "given the current rate of industry progress and consumers' demand for affordability." However, the company noted that it will "continue to offer a variety of eggs," and by 2030, it plans to transition approximately 70 percent of its egg products to cage-free "or higher standards." In 2023, it is anticipated to reach 33 percent.
Kroger isn't alone in pulling back, either. According to Food Dive, Walmart also pledged to be 100 percent cage-free by 2025, but that's no longer the plan. In April 2022, the big-box retailer issued an update, noting that they were only 20 percent cage-free at Walmart and 36 percent cage-free at Sam's Club U.S.
Walmart said this progress was "slower than we had hoped," and considering the pace, the retailer conceded it was "unlikely to meet our 100% cage-free egg supply chains by 2025."