McDonald’s has announced that it’s making the transition to cage-free eggs in the next 10 years. The move will cover its 16,000 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada.
The company uses a reported 2 billion shell and liquid eggs per year—or around 4 percent of the eggs produced in the U.S. Currently, less than 10 percent of eggs produced in the U.S. are cage-free, which is why the mega-food chain will need a decade for the shift, according to an article in The New York Times.
Eggs are big business for McDonald’s: The company uses one egg per Egg McMuffin, which is one of its most popular menu items, and believes it can mitigate the increased cost of cage-free eggs because of the scale of its purchases.
"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,” Marion Gross, senior vice president and Chief Supply Chain Officer of McDonald’s North America said in a statement. “This is a bold move and we’re confident in our ability to provide a quality, safe, and consistent supply.”
The move comes at a time when many barns that are still empty as a result of an avian flu epidemic can be transitioned to cage-free hen operations, according to The New York Times. Organic and cage-free eggs haven’t been hit as hard by the flu since the chickens aren’t caged together—so when one chicken gets sick, it doesn’t necessarily mean the whole flock will be infected.
What’s more, states like California have enacted laws that limit the way egg-producing hens can be housed. They must be able to stand up, lie down, turn around, and fully extend their wings. The 2008 legislation has led other states like Washington, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Oregon to consider similar legislation.
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“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."
McDonald’s also announced in March that it would be cutting the use of medically important antibiotics in chicken from U.S. supply chains within the next two years.
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Image: Mike Mozart