2016 might just be the year chickens get their wings back, quite literally. While 2015 rounded out with several major retailers and restaurant chains announcing a shift to cage-free eggs, fast food giant Wendy’s kicks off 2016 saying it too will be switching to 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2020.
The move comes after a petition was started by Mercy for Animals, the Los Angeles-based animal welfare organization behind several recent headline-garnering investigations. The petition collected more than 150,000 signatures asking Wendy’s to make the switch.
“Wendy’s has taken a significant step forward in improving the lives of farmed animals,” Nathan Runkle, president of MFA, said in a statement, “Wendy’s cage-free egg commitment will reduce the suffering of countless hens and hopefully inspire other food companies to do the same.”
While Wendy’s major competitors McDonald’s and Burger King already have cage-free commitments underway, the chain’s 2020 deadline is an ambitious one, putting more pressure on suppliers to move away from battery cages, the industry standard for raising egg-laying hens.
According to Mercy for Animals, “more than 90 percent of hens used for eggs are crammed into wire cages so small the birds can’t walk, spread their wings, or engage in other simple natural behaviors.”
California and Michigan have banned battery cages and Ohio, which is the nation’s second-largest egg-producing state, has ceased construction of any new caged-egg facilities, MFA reports.
“Animal welfare is a core part of our company’s role as a responsible corporate citizen,” Liliana Esposito, Wendy’s Chief Communications Officer, said in a statement. “We’re proud of our commitment to move to 100 percent cage-free eggs for our breakfast items and will continue to incorporate evolving best practices in the areas of animal handling and welfare into our supply chain requirements.”
The Humane Society of the United States also applauded Wendy’s on its move, “We appreciate Wendy’s leadership over the years in creating a more humane supply chain. The company’s cage-free eggs announcement further demonstrates its commitment to ensure farm animals have better lives,” Josh Balk, the Humane Society’s senior food policy director, said in a statement.
Wendy’s joins Panera, Nestlé, and Costco with its 2020 deadline. McDonald’s, Subway, and Dunkin’ Donuts will be cage-free by 2025. Taco Bell has set a deadline for switching to cage-free eggs for the end of 2016, and Burger King’s deadline is 2017.
Wendy’s operates more than 6,400 locations around the world.
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