McDonald’s commits to advances in chicken welfare

McDonald's welfare commitments apply to chicken raised for sale at the chain's restaurants in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. Photo: McDonald's
McDonald's welfare commitments apply to chicken raised for sale at the chain's restaurants in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. Photo: McDonald's

Following a strong performance in Q3 of 2022, with the company reporting a sales increase of 9.5% globally, McDonald’s has announced ‘8 commitments’ to source chickens raised with improved welfare.

With an emphasis on sustainability, the company announced that it “has evolved its customers’ tastes and society’s changing needs” and will source chickens raised with “improved welfare outcomes”.

The company shared 8 commitments in markets across the globe, which it says impacts more than 70% of its global chicken supply. These commitments apply to chicken raised for sale at McDonald’s restaurants in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, and the US.

The following 8 commitments, it announced, will be fully implemented on or before 2024:

  • Improved farm-level welfare outcomes: Source chickens raised with improved welfare outcomes.
  • On-farm animal health and welfare monitoring technologies: Partner with technology companies, producers, and suppliers to develop on-farm monitoring systems to automate the gathering of key animal health and welfare and behavioural indicators.
  • Natural behaviour: Require chickens to be raised in housing environments that promote natural behaviours such as pecking, perching and dust-bathing, encouraged through enrichments, with access to floor litter 100% of the time, and providing a minimum of 20 lux light intensity during photoperiods, with a minimum of 6 hours of darkness (4 hours to be continuous) during a 24-hour time period.
  • Commercial trials on production inputs: Conduct commercial trials to study the effect that various production parameters have on key welfare outcomes within large-scale, commercial conditions. The effects of lighting, stocking density and genetics will be included.
  • Stunning: In the US and Canada, a transition is planned to sourcing chickens that have been stunned by the use of controlled atmospheric stunning.
  • Accountability: Establish third-party audits to ensure compliance by suppliers.
  • Feasibility study: Measure the feasibility of extending these commitments to the remaining global markets where McDonald’s operates.
  • McDonald’s advisory council for chicken sustainability: Establish a global, multi-stakeholder advisory council focused on chicken sustainability, with participation from academics and scientists, suppliers and industry experts, animal welfare and environmental advocates.

Cage-free eggs

In September 2015, McDonald’s announced a full transition to cage-free eggs in all their restaurants in the US and Canada (within 10 years). After this announcement, about 200 US companies, including Walmart, followed suit.

In response to the announcement, Compassion in World Farming highlighted that many companies are responding to the increasing consumer concern for animal welfare and the weight of scientific evidence showing the need to improve broiler welfare.

However, it noted that these commitments made by the fast food giant “completely disregards the key welfare issues being addressed by the broiler industry at the moment, which tackle the fundamental problems of fast growth breeds, and the basic need to provide enough space for them to live,” adding that McDonald’s biggest competitors, Sunway, Burger King and Kraft Heinz, have committed to make these meaningful improvements, “so it’s disappointing that McDonald’s with their experience and influence in the marketplace cannot commit to the same welfare standards on a regional basis”.

For the 9 months ending 30 September 2022, McDonald’s reported revenue earnings of US$17.25 billion.

Berkhout
Natalie Berkhout Freelance journalist
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