OAK BROOK, Ill. -- McDonald's USA today announced its participation with leading animal welfare scientists, academics, Non-Government Organizations and egg suppliers in a commercial-scale study of housing alternatives for egg-laying hens in the U.S., including cage-free housing.
The study, which expects to involve tens of thousands of hens, will look at the sustainability impacts of different laying hen housing environments on animal health and well-being, safe and affordable food, the environment, and worker welfare. The eggs produced during this study are expected to be used in McDonald's U.S. restaurants, provided they meet stringent food safety and quality standards.
The research is being led by Michigan State University (MSU) and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). Along with McDonald's, the multi-stakeholder Coalition advising the study includes the American Humane Association (AHA), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Cargill Incorporated, and the Center for Food Integrity (CFI).
The goal of the study is to understand the viability of alternate housing systems in the U.S., including cage-free and "enriched housing," which includes nests and perches, as well as the housing environments used by McDonald's current supply system in the U.S., which adheres to McDonald's strict Laying Hen standards. Another goal is to provide scientific-based research that will assist McDonald's and other companies in making more informed decisions on sustainable egg purchases, taking into account their independent company values and business needs.
"This is a welcome initiative for egg purchasers like McDonald's who want to consider all of the sustainability impacts when it comes to buying eggs - not just animal welfare, but environmental, food safety and economic factors," said Dan Gorsky, McDonald's senior vice president, North America Supply Chain Management. "It is our intention for eggs produced as part of this study, including cage-free eggs, to partially supply McDonald's USA by 2011."
"There's a very compelling need for a study of this scope," said Marie Wheatley, president and CEO, American Humane Association. "While scientists indicate there are benefits for laying hen birds to be able to demonstrate more natural behaviors associated with a cage-free environment, there are open questions on other animal welfare matters such as feather pecking and mortality rates."
"Globally, McDonald's supports cage and cage-free housing as long as they meet our animal welfare guiding principles," said Bob Langert, McDonald's vice president, Corporate Social Responsibility. "And, with the Coalition's research, we will have science-based egg sustainability facts to guide our decisions towards promoting continuous improvement in these important areas."
Currently, research on the design and infrastructure of the study has begun in conjunction with MSU and UC Davis. The timeline and costs are being determined, as well as standards for each housing type, with input from participating experts.
"A thorough understanding of the full range of sustainability factors regarding hen housing is an important goal of this project," said Janice Swanson, MSU. "The Coalition anticipates a multi-year study to factor in seasonal shifts, bird lifecycles, and other factors."
Joy Mench, UC-Davis, added, "This study will provide critical information that will allow us to better understand how laying hen behavior is accommodated in different housing systems, as well as how these environments affect other aspects of hen welfare."
McDonald's USA, LLC, is the leading foodservice provider in the United States serving a variety of wholesome foods made from quality ingredients to millions of customers every day. More than 80 percent of McDonald's 14,000 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by local franchisees.
McDonald's USA Laying Hen Standards:
SOURCE McDonald's USA via PR Newswire.