Cage-free isn't McDonald's first initiative for animal welfare

© Copyright Oast House Archive and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

© Copyright Oast House Archive and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

In case you missed it, last week McDonald’s announced that its going cage-free. Before gasping in amazement that the behemoth would engage in such humanitarian behavior, consider that McDonald’s was improving animal welfare long before animal activists became more vocal in the past decade. In the late 1990s, McDonald’s hired Temple Grandin to create a more humane animal handling system. You can see her system here.

Chickens have recently had their space enlarged by other companies, such as Starbucks (those egg sandwiches seem more palatable now). McDonald’s recently announced the all-day breakfast menu, which will undoubtedly put pressure on egg producers, now still reeling from the impact of the avian flu (see our summer post on the Food+City blog).


More breakfasts means that happier chickens will be needed to produce more eggs but at least with more breathing room. And when McDonald’s makes a move, so do all its suppliers. Big food can sometimes make big changes for the good, it seems. Instead of the 10% of producers with cage free chickens, more producers will retire those battery cages.

When these shifts in food production change, they impact the rest of the supply chain. What impacts could there be? Egg prices to go up? More avian flu due to mingling of chickens? More eggs per chicken? Happier chickens produce more eggs? And what happens if demand for eggs increases as meat demand decreases? Anyone want to take a crack at some of these issues?