McDonald’s en route to ‘cage-free’ eggs in Canada, U.S.

Reuters/Staff –– McDonald’s Corp. said all eggs it uses in its 16,000 restaurants in Canada and the U.S. will, within the next 10 years, come from chickens not confined to cages.

The decision to source “cage-free” eggs follows the company’s announcement in March that it would stop using chicken raised with certain kinds of antibiotics at its U.S. restaurants over two years.

McDonald’s buys about two billion eggs annually for its U.S restaurants and 120 million for Canada to serve breakfast items such as McMuffins, McGriddles, breakfast bagels and breakfast burritos.

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McDonald’s Canada said Wednesday it would “immediately begin this transition” by getting five per cent of its egg supply from cage-free sources.

The Canadian chain said that to meet the increased demand and ensure a sustainable supply of cage-free eggs, it would “work with industry stakeholders to identify the best path forward, while continuing to work within the Canadian supply management system.”

“We value our partnership and look forward to providing healthy, nutritious cage-free eggs for all McDonald’s restaurants in Canada,” Margaret Hudson, president of Ontario-based egg producer Burnbrae Farms, said in McDonald’s release.

“While the way we produce eggs has changed since our great-grandfather founded the farm in 1893, our commitment to do what’s right for Canadian consumers has never been stronger.”

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

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

McDonald’s USA has been buying more than 13 million cage-free eggs annually since 2011.

The world’s biggest fast-food chain will start offering all-day breakfast in the U.S. from October, but has told reporters it has no plans for breakfast items past 11 a.m. at its Canadian outlets.

Montreal-based Humane Society International/Canada, in a separate release Wednesday, hailed the Canadian and U.S. chains’ plans, which the animal welfare group said “will spare nearly eight million animals each year from life inside cramped cages.”

HSI/Canada said McDonald’s decision follows a multi-year study the fast food firm helped fund, examining the animal welfare, economic, food safety and market factors around housing for layer hens.

McDonald’s said Wednesday it has been “actively engaged” in the hen housing file since 2003, when it set a company standard for housing systems, which “provided more space per bird than the official industry standard.”

The chain also recently pledged to source a portion of its beef from “verified sustainable sources” starting next year, and has been running a pilot project in Canada to set up an independent verification process for sustainable cattle production.

Reporting for Reuters by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.

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