McDonald’s says it will switch to cage-free eggs in the US and Canada over the next decade, marking the latest push under CEO, Steve Easterbrook, to try and reinvent the Big Mac maker as a “modern, progressive burger company.”
Under pressure to revive slumping sales, McDonald’s has already announced a number of changes since Easterbrook stepped into his role earlier this year.
In March, the Oak Brook, Illinois company said it would switch to chickens raised without most antibiotics. And in April, it said it would raise pay for workers at company-owned stores, which represent about 10 per cent of its domestic locations.
The decision to switch to cage-free eggs, meanwhile, signals a growing sensitivity among customers to animal welfare issues.
Animal welfare activists also have long called for the banishment of battery cages, which confine hens to spaces so small they’re barely able to move.
For at least the past 10 years, the Humane Society of the United States has pressed McDonald’s to switch to cage-free eggs at the company’s annual shareholders meeting, said Paul Shapiro, the group’s vice president of farm and animal protection.
“It’s a real watershed moment,” Shapiro said of the decision by McDonald’s. “It makes it clearer than ever that cages just do not have a future in the egg industry.”
Regulatory changes could also be making it easier for companies to agree to change. In California, a law now requires that egg-laying hens be given enough space to stretch, turn around and flap their wings.
Among the companies that have said they will switch to cage-free eggs are Subway and Starbucks, although neither of those chains has laid out a timeline for when they expect the transition to be complete.