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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–The Taco Bell on Somerset Street, along with all 6,000 U.S. restaurants in the quick-service chain, will serve only “cage-free” eggs by the end of 2016.
Taco Bell will make the switch from regular eggs, which are produced less humanely by caged hens, ahead of any other national chain that serves breakfast, according to a November 16 Taco Bell press release.
“Taco Bell has catapulted itself ahead of other major restaurant chains. Switching to 100% cage-free eggs by the end of 2016 is a tremendous commitment that will quickly improve the lives of countless animals and further cement the future of egg production as being one without cages,” said Josh Balk, Senior Food Policy Director at The Humane Society of the United States.
The company behind the chain, Yum Brands Inc., also owns KFC and Pizza Hut, and said that it “will deliver on its stated goal of removing artificial flavors and colors, added trans-fat, high fructose corn syrup, and unsustainable palm oil from its core menu items,” early next year.
Plus, it will introduce aspartame-free diet Pepsi in all U.S. stores beginning in early 2016.
The announcement coincides with increasing pressure on the company from advocacy groups to eliminate artificial ingredients from its menu items, and purchase predominantly free-range meat and products made with fewer antibiotics, growth hormones, and pesticides.
McDonald’s Corp. said it would stop using eggs that are not cage-free in nearly 16,000 of its restaurants in the U.S. and Canada over the next decade.
Liz Matthews, Taco Bell Corp. Chief Food Innovation Officer, said the move is simply a result of listening to customers.
“Ingredient transparency is more important than ever,” she said.
“That is why we remain hungry and challenge ourselves to set ambitious yet achievable commitments that make our food better, without ever compromising the flavor that our fans crave.”
However, the move to 100% cage-free eggs in only one year, is possible due to Taco Bell’s “large yet flexible infrastructure, and years of close collaboration with our partners,” she added.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, approximately 500,000 hens each year will benefit from this change.
Taco Bell, which started serving breakfast last year, says the move also supports its “focus on disrupting the breakfast market,” with fun menu items built with eggs, including “the A.M. Crunchwrap,” “Biscuit Taco,” and breakfast burritos.
“Teaming with its strategic partner, Taco Bell will transition to cage-free eggs in an industry-leading 12-month time frame. Taco Bell’s eggs will be verified as ‘American Humane Certified’ based on cage-free egg production standards set by the American Humane Association,” says the release.
Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol said: “Implementing this change at record pace underscores that we are always listening and responding to our customers, while doing what is right for our business.”
Cage-free egg production supports the natural behaviors of hens, including walking, spreading of wings, nesting, and perching, and can lead to animals exhibiting lower levels of stress.