- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 29, 2006

American University students wanted to change the food served on campus, but their movement wound up changing the menus at hundreds of cafeterias nationwide and the lives of thousands of chickens.

After Easter last year, American University senior David Benzaquen asked the cafeteria to switch to cage-free eggs.

Animal Rights Effort, a group that Mr. Benzaquen leads, collected 1,200 signatures from AU students asking the cafeteria to buy only cage-free eggs.

The students approached the cafeteria’s contractor, California-based Bon Appetit Management Co., with their proposal — and got a lesson in economics and business ethics.

A university study put the cost of cage-free eggs at 6 to 7 cents more per egg.

Mr. Benzaquen said the Humane Society jumped in to help the students locate suppliers and help assess the costs for the cafeteria. They knew raising meal costs would not be popular with parents.

But Bon Appetit was willing to absorb the cost if students could locate an egg supply within a certain price range that they declined to specify.

The company ultimately decided to phase out the use of regular shell eggs at all of its 200 university and corporate cafeterias across the United States and switch to cage-free eggs by Nov. 15. The company uses 8 million eggs a year.

Maisie Ganzler, director of strategic initiatives for Bon Appetit, said the price is significantly higher now for cage-free eggs. The hope is that supply will grow with demand and the prices will come down.

AU students returning from winter break this month have already been eating cage-free eggs.

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