McDonald’s is stirring up the egg industry in a big way: They’re going cage-free. As a purchaser of two billion eggs annually (representing 4% of the US egg market), McDonald’s decision will cause ripples among egg producers.
McDonald’s timeline indicates the company plants to be 100% cage-free within 10 years.
Senior vice president for supply chain management at McDonald’s, Marion Gross, told the New York Times, “We are a big purchaser of eggs in the U.S. and in Canada, and we have the scale behind us to be able to do these kinds of things. It’s not always easy, but it’s a challenge we can work through.”
In fact, Humane Socieity of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle believes this could mean the end of caged chickens, saying, “This is a watershed moment in a decades-long effort to eliminate the cruelest confinement from our food supply. McDonald’s admirable move makes clear that egg production’s future is cage-free.”
One reason for the long timeline is that only 10% of chickens are currently cage-free. However, Pacelle is optimistic that McDonald’s shift will happen quicker than planned.
McDonald’s has been the poster child for factory farming, but lately has taken some bold stands for safer food, such as refusing to serve GMo potatoes, banning certain antibiotics from some meat, and phasing out gestation crates for pigs.
As an example of the power of McDonald’s decisions, a few weeks after the company announced that it would no longer serve chicken without medically-relevant antibiotics, Tyson Foods made a similar pledge.
Other companies who have gone cage-free include Burger King, General Mills, Krispy Kreme, an Aramark.
The benefit of cage-free eggs is that chickens are able to display their natural behaviors better—such as walking, flapping their wings, and laying eggs in nests—because they aren’t confined to drawer-sized cages. It does not necessarily mean that chickens are outside living the good life or eating high-quality grain; however it is certainly a step in the right direction.