Welcome news! McDonald’s announced earlier this week its plan to transition to sourcing eggs only from cage-free hens.
The New York Times observed that, since McDonald’s uses 4% of the eggs produced in the U.S. each year (over 2 billion eggs), it will phase in this change over the next 10 years giving its suppliers time to change to cage-free operations.
This will ultimately effect 8 million egg laying hens, and have wider repercussions for the entire industry.
There has been pressure on McDonald’s to change it’s food sourcing to healthier cruelty-free suppliers for years and, for years, the company has resisted. McDonald’s is an increasingly toxic brand to consumers and is trying to stem declining sales.
McDonald’s now follows in the footsteps of rival Burger King and several large food service suppliers, The Compass Group, Sodexo and Aramark, who have already announced their commitments to sourcing cage-free eggs.
While we applaud McDonald’s decision, we must stay resolute as there is much work that remains to be done.
Improving an important aspect of factory-farmed animal treatment does not in any way equate to ending factory-farmed animal suffering or to ending factory farming. Cage-free does not mean cruelty free. Marion Gross, senior V.P. for supply chain management at McDonald’s is quoted in the N.Y.Times report, “This is truly a move from conventional housing to more enriched housing systems.”
Factory-farmed caged hens live their lives in cages with less individual space to move around than a shoebox or the surface area of an i-Pad. They do not have the room to even flex their wings. The cages are stacked so hens on all but the top row can live under a constant rain of urine and droppings from their neighbors above.
This is the industry standard ‘conventional housing’ that McDonald’s has been supporting for years:
One cage-free facility that would qualify as what Marion describes as an ‘enriched housing system’ looks like this:
Better - yes. But these cage-free hens do not have access to the outdoors. Much of the suffering and misery these intelligent social animals endure remains.
We are moving the needle. Progress made can be progress celebrated. But the needle must be moved much further. More on this to come.
bottom photo: The Chicken Industry