On June 26, an online petition on Change.org was started by Tufts student Jeremy Goldman asking Tufts Dining to switch to cage-free eggs.
The petition inaccurately suggests that Tufts Dining does not offer cage-free eggs nor did they respond to previous requests to do so, stating that “Hundreds of students have signed a petition calling for the switch, and we have passed a nearly unanimous Student Government Senate resolution in support of the switch as well. Our concerns have fallen on deaf ears, and we Tufts students are devastated to see our school lagging so far behind in standard sustainability and public health efforts.”
Tufts Dining does in fact offer offer cage-free shell eggs and egg whites. For over 10 years, they had also purchased cage-free liquid eggs at an annual premium of $30,000 but switched back to regular eggs about three years ago due to mounting pressure to reduce costs. The cage-free shell eggs and egg whites are available to those who want a cage-free option.
On the resolution passed last April by the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate calling for a switch to cage-free eggs, Tufts’ Director of Dining and Business Services, Patti Klos, told us via email that while the TCU Senators informed her of their awareness of the issue, they did not indicate that they were going to bring it to a resolution, nor share the outcome of the resolution with her.
Below is Tufts Dining’s response to the petition, which unfortunately is not posted online:
Tufts Dining Service efforts are aligned with healthy eating, extensive variety, sustainability and ethical animal practices and we champion sustainability wherever we can. We are sympathetic to this particular issue and in fact, we used cage- free liquid eggs – which account for the majority of our eggs — for about 10 years. Unfortunately, the cost-differential between conventional and cage-free eggs grew to the point that it was costing over $30,000 a year– the equivalent of a student scholarship covering one-half of a student’s tuition, fees, and room and board.
Currently, we do use cage free whole eggs and cage free egg whites, so students have an option. We are always looking for ways to increase cage-free egg use and to find suppliers who can meet both our quality and budget needs, recognizing that cost is a growing concern for many students and their families.
While the economic climate does not yet enable us to use only cage free eggs, we continue to implement many other sustainable dining initiatives. We source locally and increase our sustainable food procurement every year. We have also made great strides in recycling, composting and waste reduction. We do our best to thoughtfully balance costs with the need for an extensive variety of fresh, nutritious food choices produced with as little impact on the earth as possible. Our practices will continue to evolve and we are always open to thoughtful suggestions and discussion.
– Patti Klos, Director of Dining and Business Services
For the record, Dining has responded positively to student petitions in the past – Trayless Dining and banning the sale of single-use plastic water bottles from Hodgdon Good-to-Go were student-led initiatives that got the green light. Both were started by students from the Ex-College class on Environmental Action, going through a long process that involved careful research, meetings with administrators, and campaigns to raise awareness as well as support implementation.
Dining is one of our office’s strongest partners for sustainability initiatives at Tufts, and while we applaud the students’ passion and initiative to make change, using an online petition in this manner casts a distinctly one-sided and unfair light on Dining – not to mention Tufts as a whole.
My biggest concern is this type of tactic is how it may affect other student initiatives that are in the process of being responsibly vetted, planned and executed. The petition cc’s 21 people, including all Dining managers, the President’s Office and Public Relations. Every time someone signs the petition, an email falls into several inboxes. Needless to say, the petitioners have gained attention – but what did this exercise cost them in terms of respect and credibility?