Hello BEST members,

    McDonald's in the U.S. and Canada have begun making a change to their products in the past couple months. They are shifting to only buying and making products from "cage-free eggs," in order to better animal welfare practices. The term "cage-free eggs" is used for chicken eggs that were laid by chickens which were not housed in an industrial wire-cage environment. Cage free chickens may still be housed in large numbers but also have room to step around, scratch, and peck. The term cage-free does not guarantee that the chickens have access to pasture or to environments outside from where they are housed. McDonald's currently uses more than 2.1 Billion eggs at its U.S. and Canadian restaurants with 13 million coming from cage-free hens and pledges to shift to all cage-free eggs by 1O years. This will have a huge impact on the egg-laying industry and on consumers since there are 16,OOO restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, McDonald's buys 4% of all eggs produced in the U.S. and serves an all-day breakfast menu. Other restaurants and food companies such as Panera Bread, Nestle, General Mills, and Kellogg's are also seeking to buy cage-free eggs. The world's largest food company, Nestle, plans to reach its goal of all cage-free eggs by 2O2O. Nestle uses more than 2O million pounds of eggs each year for a large variety of products from cookie dough and ice cream to frozen dinners.

    One driving force of McDonald's making a change towards cage-free eggs is consumers. Consumer interest in animal husbandry methods has increased tremendously over the years. People no longer want animals to live confined in small crates. Another factor for the cage-free egg shift is due to a study released by the Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply on "hen housing systems." The Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply is a multi-stakeholder group comprised of animal welfare scientists, private organizations, academic institutions, egg suppliers, restaurants, and food service companies which conduct research on sustainable hen housing systems to create guidelines producers can follow. Their most recent research study examined sustainability of egg laying production systems in terms of hen health, worker health, food safety, impact on the environment and food affordability. Cage-free eggs are more expensive to produce compared to conventional housing systems with wire cages, but consumer drive and animal welfare will make these costs worthwhile in the future. Overall, the cage-free egg movement is causing large egg producers to accommodate the demand of the restaurants, food companies, and consumers demanding cage-free eggs. The future ahead in the U.S. looks cage free for egg-laying hens with such large companies like McDonald's, Nestle, General Mills, and Kellogg's paving the path for a positive change in animal husbandry .


Claudia Sanchez

University Scholar - CALS
BioEnergy and Sustainable Technology Lab
Soil and Water Science Department
University of Florida-IFAS
"Sanchez,Claudia M" <[log in to unmask]>

Is McDonald's Cage-free Eggs Strategy a Turning Point?

December 21, 2O15

Research Results of the Sustainable Egg Coalition