McDonald’s is switching to cage-free eggs at its restaurants in the U.S. and Canada. But when you’re looking at supplying 16,000 restaurants with 2 billion eggs annually in the U.S. and 120 million eggs in Canada, you start to realize it’s going to take time.
Currently, McDonald’s purchases more than 13 million cage-free eggs each year. But now that it’s launching all-day breakfast, that number is expected to increase. Just over 6 percent of eggs in the U.S. come from cage-free hens, and McDonald’s currently uses more than 4 percent of the country’s entire egg supply each year. The 10-year timeline will allow farmers to step up and switch more of their hen-housing to cage-free production so that they can keep up with the demand.
And there is a demand for this type of product.
Marion Gross, senior vice president and chief supply chain officer of McDonald’s North America, said in a statement that “animal welfare has always been important to us and our customers” and that “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.”
Gross also said that the move could have a sizable impact on the price of cage-free eggs. According to The New York Times, egg producers in California currently argue that “retailers add big markups to cage-free eggs that distort the actual increase in the cost of producing them.”
But because McDonald’s and other large users of eggs are switching to cage-free, Gross believes “[they] will be able to mitigate cost impact on our system.” This could also trickle down into grocery stores, making cage-free eggs more affordable for all.
McDonald’s isn’t alone in its switch — Burger King is working toward using only cage-free eggs by 2017, and big brands like Sara Lee, General Mills and Unilever are working toward using cage-free eggs exclusively too.
McDonald’s move is in line with some recent changes in its operations. It’s switching to real butter instead of liquid margarine, has pledged to only use chickens that haven’t been raised with human antibiotics and will start offering milk from cows that haven’t been treated with artificial growth hormone rbST.
It has also made a few menu changes to keep up with changing consumer tastes by introducing items like a salad blend that includes baby kale and calling one of its new sandwiches “artisan.”
But is it enough to save the company from slumping sales?