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McDonald’s Will Shift to Using Cage-Free Eggs Over Next 10 Years

Company Already Buys 2 Billion Eggs Every Year, Will Start Offering All Day Breakfast
McDonald's
The McDonald's on Somerset Street in New Brunswick Google Maps

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–McDonald’s corporation will fully transition to cage-free eggs in nearly 16,000 of its restaurants in the U.S. and Canada over the next 10 years, the giant restaurant chain announced on September 9.

“Our customers are increasingly interested in knowing more about their food and where it comes from,” said McDonald’s USA President Mike Andres. “Our decision to source only cage-free eggs reinforces the focus we place on food quality and our menu to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations.

“We’re proud of the work we’re doing with farmers and suppliers to advance environmentally and socially conscious practices for the animals in our supply chain,” said Marion Gross, senior vice president and Chief Supply Chain Officer of McDonald’s North America.

“This is a bold move and we’re confident in our ability to provide a quality, safe, and consistent supply.”

McDonald’s USA buys about two billion eggs per year to make its breakfast items such as Egg McMuffin’s and Egg White Delight’s, two popular items featured on its menus.

But he company says it has already been buying more than 13 million cage-free eggs per year since 2011.

“Animal welfare has always been important to us and our customers,” added Gross. “Today’s announcement is another big milestone building on our work with industry experts and suppliers to improve the treatment of animals.”

Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, a family-owned and operated farm in Michigan, has worked with McDonald’s for decades to supply nutritious eggs.

“Cage-free systems play an important role in our work to keep hens healthy and meet the growing consumer demand for responsibly-sourced food,” said Greg Herbruck, executive vice president of Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch.

“We welcome McDonald’s actions to continue these efforts and are pleased to join them in sourcing cage-free eggs across their supply chain. We continue embracing new technologies and strategies to ensure our hens are well-cared for.”

As we reported, the news follows other actions announced this year by McDonald’s USA to source only chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine by 2017.

“McDonald’s USA introduced the Artisan Grilled Chicken patty, seasoned with simple, everyday ingredients and introduced a new contemporary salad blend of romaine, baby spinach and baby kale,” said the company in a release.

“McDonald’s is also moving from liquid margarine to real butter on English muffins, biscuits and bagels on the breakfast menu and has introduced a new Buttermilk Crispy Chicken, which uses real buttermilk in the breading."

Starting on October 6, McDonald’s will be serving all-day breakfast at its U.S. restaurants. The move was voted in by franchisees as expected.

“The company and investors hope [all-day breakfast] will help reverse slumping sales and traffic,” according to a New York Times report.

“Richard Adams, a former McDonald’s franchisee turned consultant, said McDonald’s had told franchisees that all-day breakfast would lure 200 extra customers a week per restaurant,” writes the NYT’s.

While the company's plan to get all the eggs it uses from farms with cage-free hens could reportedly have a big effect on the egg industry, NPR’s program “Marketplace” raised a question: “How care free are cage-free chickens?”

In the episode, Annie Baxter said, “Maybe we picture hens on a pastoral farm with rolling hills…”

But Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the United States, said: “You have some of these facilities that have tens of millions of animals on one property, tens of millions, they are locked so overcrowded, crammed wing to wing, and beak to beak and stacked in cages from the floor to the ceiling, this is where the term factory farm comes from.”

Shapiro stated, by contrast, cage-free hens can move around in a barn from one level to the next. He told Marketplace that while it’s important McDonald’s and Burger King are going cage-free “even cage-free birds may never go outside and they are still in a facility with tens of thousands of birds.”

“It doesn’t necessarily mean they are living in bucolic conditions but it does mean that the birds have a better quality of life,” Shapiro said.

“If we are going to feed a growing population you have to have infrastructure to be able to do that,” Marion Gross, Chief supply Chain Officer of McDonald’s North America, told Marketplace.

She added: “At some point the company could have some egg production come from free range hens (the ones with the more bucolic existence) but that would be difficult when you use two billion eggs a year.”

But according to Gross, in the meantime, McDonald’s decision “could forge improvements in cage-free systems.”

“We believe that we are going to help move [the improvements in cage-free systems] along even further because our volumes and our scale is so big we are helping to change the industry,” Gross said.

“But those changes will come at a cost to farmers, many of them plan for 20 years of egg production out of the thousands of cages they use.”