McDonald’s Australia to move towards using cage-free eggs by end of 2017

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 17th September 2014
McDonald’s Australia to move towards using cage-free eggs by end of 2017
McDonald’s Australia to move towards using cage-free eggs by end of 2017

Fast food restaurant giant McDonald’s Australia has announced that it will move towards using cage-free eggs by the end of 2017.

McDonald’s Australia said it was working with its suppliers towards the switch to cage-free eggs in its 900 restaurants across the country.

“This is part of a broader animal welfare initiative, which we will share more details on in the coming weeks,” McDonald’s Australia announced on its Facebook page.

The announcement received more than 4,000 likes on the social media page, more than 1,000 comments from consumers, and was shared on other people’s Facebook pages around 200 times.

Announcement welcomed by animal welfare groups

The move comes after sustained public pressure from animal welfare groups, who have welcomed the announcement.

“More fast food chains will now be under increased pressure to abandon their support of cruel factory farming industries,” said Lyn White, Campaign Director of animal welfare activist group Animals Australia.

Farmers question move to cage-free

However, the fast food giant’s move to cage-free eggs has not been welcomed by everyone. Farmers’ representative body the Victorian Farmers’ Federation has asked who will absorb the cost of the switch to cage-free.

“It’ a crucial question, given time and again we’ve seen retailers pushing farmers into higher cost productions system, but refusing to pay any more,” Victorian Farmers Federation Egg Group President Brian Ahmed said. “If McDonald’s family restaurants are going to use free range or barn laid eggs, then they must pay farmers the extra needed to cover the higher costs of these production systems,” he said.

“So either McDonald’s raises the price customers pay for breakfast McMuffins, wraps and other products with eggs or they tell their franchisees to absorb the cost,” Mr Ahmed said. “We will not accept egg producers paying the price of this decision, through lower farm-gate prices,” he said.

Mr Ahmed said the VFF had members who produce caged, barn laid and free-range eggs.

“We support all these production systems and the right of consumers to choose what they want and what they can afford,” Mr Ahmed said.

However, Mr Ahmed questioned McDonalds argument that it was dumping caged eggs on animal welfare grounds. He said the animal welfare argument was “misleading”. Mr Ahmed said Australian research had shown there was “no difference in the stress levels between caged, barn and free-range hens”.

“And nutritionally they’re exactly the same,” Mr Ahmed said.

Other moves to cage-free eggs

The use — or discontinued use — of cage-free eggs has also gained attention for supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths recently.

Australian Food News reported earlier in September 2014 that Woolworths had announced that as of this month, ACT stores will sell 100 per cent cage-free eggs as part of the the supermarket’s ongoing commitment to remove cage eggs from all outlets by December 2018.

Woolworths announced its 2018 commitment to phase out cage eggs in conjunction with its partnership with Jamie Oliver in 2013. The supermarket group was the first Australian retailer to introduce free-range eggs to its own brand. Woolworths has said it will also remove caged eggs as ingredients from all of its Homebrand products by the end of 2018.

Australian Food News reported in March 2013 that Woolworths’ rival Coles had also announced that it would move towards cage-free eggs.

But while Coles’ removal of cage eggs from its range was welcomed by animal welfare groups at the time, its definition of ‘free range’ was met with hesitation. Coles’ proposed ‘free range’ standards would allow up to 10,000 birds per hectare, which is a nearly seven-fold increase in the number of birds per hectare allowed under the voluntary guidelines. In November 2012, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission rejected the Australian Egg Corporation Limited’s (AECL’s) proposal for ‘free range’, saying that the proposed 20,000 birds per hectare would be “misleading”.

One of Australia’s ‘free range’ egg and poultry accreditors, Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia Ltd (FREPA) has expressed dissatisfaction with the Coles supermarket moves. FREPA told Australian Food News that Coles had not consulted them in setting its ‘free range’ guidelines.