The largest U.S.-based food service company, Aramark, is partnered with UCF Dining to provide campus with food services. According to the Humane League, an organization fighting to stop animal cruelty, Aramark has a secret, and it's cooped up — literally.
"Aramark uses liquid eggs from cruel, filthy and unsustainable battery cage farms," according to the Humane League's petition on Change.org. The group is proposing UCF cut ties with Aramark.
Battery cage farms pack chickens tightly into cages where they are unable to spread their wings or engage in natural behavior.
The Humane League's petition, which was created about two weeks ago, states this practice is illegal in the European Union and several U.S. states because of its cruelty.
"Aramark already has existing commitments impacting animal welfare," said Karen Cutler, Aramark director of corporate communications. "We just recently expanded them."
UCF spokesman Chad Binette said the university has no plans to cut ties with Aramark in the near future.
"UCF Dining has committed to switching to cage-free liquid eggs and is working with Aramark and its suppliers to make the change as soon as possible. Depending on product availability, we expect the change will be made by the start of the summer semester," he said.
A press release was released on March 12 by Aramark, which detailed its plans to increase its egg commitment.
"Aramark announced today that it will expand its cage-free egg commitment to include all company purchases of liquid, pre-cracked eggs in the U.S. by 2020 or sooner if supplies become available," the release states.
Hundreds of Aramark's partners were previously helped in purchasing cage-free eggs in order to move to entirely cage-free liquid eggs, according to the release. Cutler said Aramark's plans include sourcing 30 million cage-free shells this year and a goal to purchase only gestation crate-free pork by 2017.
These plans correspond with another Change.org petition urging Aramark to stop purchasing eggs from battery cage farms that collected 78,729 signatures. With a confirmed victory, The Humane League posted March 12 that Aramark is committing to a new animal welfare policy that will space 770,000 hens from life in cages.
The release states that Aramark does not raise animals or grow products but relies on suppliers who have said transitioning their production methods to cage-free eggs will require years of work.
In 2012, Aramark was awarded the Henry Spira Humane Corporate Progress Award for the company's efforts to help improve the conditions of caged farm animals, according to the Humane Society website.
"HSUS is a valued partner and we are proud to have earned their Henry Spira Humane Corporate Progress Award for our work together in this area," Cutler said.
The release states that less than 10 percent of the total hen-laying flock in the United States is currently cage-free.
"We had hoped to include the Humane League in our plans but they elected to launch a campaign against us instead of partnering together like we do with the Humane Society of the U.S.," Cutler said.
The Humane League was unavailable for comment.
"Next week, Aramark will release a comprehensive animal welfare policy with HSUS that will address a broad spectrum of issues impacting the treatment of animals for pork, veal, beef, poultry and dairy production," the release states.
The Humane League's petition urges signers to stop UCF's partnership with Aramark.
"By contracting with Aramark, UCF is directly supporting this cruel practice," the petition states.
At the time of publication, the petition had reached 448 signatures out of the desired 500.
Jafar Karim, a junior finance major, signed the petition because he believes there's a standard organizations must hold when animals and feeding people are involved.
"If you don't hold the highest standard for either of those topics, I don't want to deal with you," he said. "They're a big business and they're about keeping their cost low. That may mean reducing quality of food and conditions for animals to cut cost."
A few members of the UCF community commented on the online petition, including Kaitlyn Egan who said she didn't want her school associated with "this disgust." A UCF alumna also shared her thoughts with a post that read, "As a UCF alumni and animal lover, this sickens me. UCF is far more intellectual and progressive than this."
Paige Wilson is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @paigeshortstackor email her at PaigeW@CentralFloridaFuture.com.