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McDonald's Will Begin Using Cage-Free Eggs

By Kate Shepherd in Food on Sep 9, 2015 3:17PM

It's hard to imagine cage-free eggs at McDonald's, but the fast food giant is evolving. McDonald's is slowly phasing out eggs from hens housed in cages and will start only using cage-free eggs.

The change will have huge implications for egg producers in the U.S. and Canada. The Oakbrook-based fast food giant uses about two billion eggs a year, which is more than 4 percent of the 43.56 billion eggs produced in the U.S. in 2014, according to the New York Times.

It's a long-term goal that could take ten years to fully implement. Only 10 percent of laying hens in the U.S. are not kept in cages, which drives up the cost of the eggs, according to the New York Times.

The impact of McDonald's decision should help lower cage-free egg prices and influence other fast food retailers to make the switch over time. McDonald's officials say they're hoping the vast scale of the McDonald's restaurant business will be able to change the U.S. food system over time to make cage-free eggs more of the norm.

In March, McDonald's promised to start solely sourcing chicken raised without human antibiotics within the next two years.

Burger King already pledged to make the transition to cage-free eggs by 2017 and Unilever, General Mills and Sara Lee are working on switching their supply chains as well.

It's a big victory for animal welfare advocates who have lobbied McDonald’s for better treatment of hens. Many hens live in cages with less space than a file drawer. Approximately eight million chickens will be affected by McDonald’s decision.

"McDonald's announcement effectively ends any debate that there may have been over whether cages have a future in the industry," Paul Shapiro, vice president for farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States, told the New York Times.