World Animal Protection commended Panera Bread on the company's public commitment to transition its entire egg supply, including those used in breads, pastries and other bakery items, to 100% cage-free eggs by 2020. This announcement is a huge step forward for the welfare of the approximately 400,000 hens that lay the 120 million eggs that Panera uses each year, according to the animal protection group.

"Panera Bread's announcement today demonstrates its commitment to consumers, who want responsibly sourced food, and to improving the lives of the farm animals that provide that food," says Priscilla Ma, executive director of World Animal Protection US. “Businesses have the power and influence to drive tremendous positive change for huge numbers of animals, and we applaud Panera for showing today that such change is possible and vital."

Panera Bread founder and CEO Ron Shaich points out that Panera has been working to reduce antibiotic use and confinement across its supply chain for more than a decade. "We are honored to have been recognized as one of the two best performing national restaurant companies in an independent report on antibiotics usage and transparency in September.  While there is more work to be done, we are within reach of a menu without antibiotics and unnecessary confinement. We are committed to transparency – which means sharing where we are and where we plan to go. We encourage other companies to join us by transparently sharing their progress."

The vast majority of the more than 300 million North American laying hens are currently kept in conventional battery cages, where each hen lives in a space smaller than an iPad, according to WAP. They have little room to stretch their wings or move around freely. But in typical cage-free barns, hens are able to express natural behaviors like walking around, laying eggs in a nest box, and perching.

Panera joins McDonald's, Starbucks, Burger King, Kellogg's, TGI Friday's, and many other leading food brands that have recently committed to source 100% cage-free eggs.

"Going 100% cage-free is the right decision for Panera, for consumers, and for hens," adds Ma. "Research has shown that animal welfare is increasingly important to consumers, especially millennials. We look forward to following Panera's progress as it shares updates on benchmarks towards going cage-free."