Over the past few years, many companies committed to make their egg supply chains cage-free. Add the chain with the iconic golden arches to the list.
McDonald’s will transition to cage-free eggs in its North American restaurants within the next 10 years, the company announced last week.
The fast-food chain's announcement is major. McDonald's has 16,000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada. And the company will switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs for all of its U.S. and Canadian operations, which will keep almost 8 million egg-laying hens from being confined in cramped cages. As the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) put it, this is a “watershed moment for animal welfare.”
Consider that McDonald’s U.S. stores alone buy about 2 billion billion eggs a year and McDonald’s Canada buys another 120 million eggs to serve on its breakfast menus. Those Egg McMuffins that are so popular will one day never come from hens that are kept in confined quarters. Already, McDonald’s buys some of its eggs from cage-free sources. The company has bought over 13 million cage-free eggs a year since 2011.
McDonald’s is also no stranger to animal welfare standards. In 2000, McDonald’s USA became the first food service company to adopt a standard for hen housing systems so more space would be provided per bird. Ten years later, the company started research with the Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply on hen housing systems.
Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr. Konrad Lorenz explains just how devastating it is to watch a battery-caged hen lay her eggs. “The worst torture to which a battery hen is exposed is the inability to retire somewhere for the laying act,” Lorenz said. “For the person who knows something about animals, it is truly heart-rending to watch how a chicken tries again and again to crawl beneath her fellow cage-mates to search there in vain for cover.”
Even in cage-free systems there is still inherent cruelty. Here’s a list of things that occur under both caged and cage-free systems, compiled by the HSUS:
Image credit: Flickr/Steve Lilley
Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.