The grocery chain is thinking of opting out of what has become a controversial business.
Wegmans Food Markets is in talks with a regional egg producer about selling its egg farm in Wolcott, Wayne County, a company spokeswoman said.
The farm has been a target of animal-rights activists since Adam Durand, director of the consumer and animal-rights group Compassionate Consumers, filmed conditions inside the farm in 2004. Last month, nine people, including Canandaigua Academy students, picketed the Wegmans store at 345 Eastern Boulevard, calling for the farm to "go cage-free."
But a Wegmans' spokeswoman said the possible sale is not connected to the protests. Jo Natale, the company's director of media relations, said Wegmans wasn't looking to sell.
"A regional egg producer has approached us," she said, reading from a statement posted for employees on Friday. "We have begun to negotiate a deal."
Natale wouldn't give details of the potential sale but said Wegmans is considering it for financial reasons. Wegmans is the only supermarket in the nation to own an egg farm, she said. It was started in 1967, and "the egg industry has changed significantly since the 1960s."
Natale said the farm had 700,000 birds on Monday, which is "really small by today's standards. Successful farms are much larger."
Meanwhile, longtime Naples egg farmer Mark Adams said he is also considering getting out of the egg business because it's no longer profitable for small and medium-sized farms.
Adams, whose family has been in the egg business since 1963, had more than 100,000 birds a few years ago. He has dropped that to 90,000, he said, in the face of competition from companies that have 10 million to 12 million birds.
Wegmans has repeatedly denied accusations of mistreating its chickens. In 2004, Wayne County District Attorney Richard Healy investigated the egg farm and Wegmans received a clean bill of health. After last month's protest Natale said, "we voluntarily adhere to science-based standards for egg production."
Compassionate Consumers accused Wegmans of mistreating its chickens by cramming them into cages, and activists claimed they had to take dead birds out of the cages and clean feces off living birds.
Julie Sherwood can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 263, or at email@example.com.