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Cage-free eggs for McDonald's in a decade

September 15
1:33 AM 2015

On Wednesday, McDonald's announced its plan to fully transition to cage-free eggs in the U.S. and Canada over the next 10 years.  The all-time favorite fast-food restaurant will join the booming number of restaurants and food companies making the same commitment to meet consumer demand, reported by Chicago Tribune.

The fast-food giant's decision, commended by animal welfare groups, will have a major effect on egg suppliers all over the country.  Other companies such as Burger King and Aramark already made cage-free egg commitments in recent years.  The size of McDonald's egg demands for its 16,000-plus restaurant chains in the U.S. and Canada makes it different, according to animal welfare experts.

McDonald's USA buys about 2 billion eggs annually which are about 2% of the country's egg supply - a number that factors in increased projections for all-day breakfast set to begin by October 6, said Marion Gross, senior vice president of supply chain management for McDonald's USA.  

Stephen Herbruck, president of Herbruck's Poultry Ranch is one of McDonald's largest egg suppliers and is based in Michigan.  Almost 3 million of its 7 million hens are in cages at a site near Saranac, Michigan, dedicated to McDonald's only.

He said that in the years to come, the site's 31 buildings will undergo renovation to meet the new cage-free criteria, two or three buildings per year.  That would cost his company up to $100 million.

McDonald's has been actively engaged in this topic since 2003 when it became the first food service company to adopt a standard for hen housing systems, giving more space to each bird than the official industry standard.  This study is important in helping better understand the benefits and potential trade-offs of various hen housing systems.

"McDonald's is strongly committed to the well-being of children, and to mark the beginning of the new school year, we are excited to provide students a free breakfast meal to help them start their day off right", said Clay Paschen III, president of the McDonald's Operators' Association of Southern California.

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