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Politics of the Plate: McDonald’s Eggs to Go Cage-Free?

03.30.09
The Humane Society plans to put the squeeze on the fast-food giant over its use of eggs from caged chickens.

In what would be a dramatic shift in corporate policy, McDonald’s could soon begin serving only free eggs.

Cage-free, that is. Describing the nearly 280 million “battery-cage” hens in this country as “arguably the most abused animals in all agribusiness” (click the link to see what “battery cages” look like), the Humane Society of the United States announced last week that it would introduce a resolution at a McDonald’s shareholder meeting in May requesting that the fast-food chain use only cage-free eggs.

The Humane Society explains that typically, each bird in a battery operation is housed in an area no bigger than a sheet of letter-sized paper, adding that the wire cages are so restrictive that the chickens can’t so much as spread their wings, let alone engage in other natural behaviors like nesting, cleaning themselves, perching, and foraging.

The European Union will be phasing out cages by 2012. Last fall, California passed a ballot measure requiring that all farm animals be provided enough space to stand up, turn around, and spread their limbs. And other fast-food outlets—including McDonald’s closest competitor, Burger King, and even McDonald’s franchises in the U. K.—already use cage-free eggs.

According to the company website, McDonald’s continues to support “both cage and cage-free laying hen housing. […] This position is supported by the fact that there remains disagreement among scientists globally about how to balance the pros and cons of each laying hen housing system.”

If there is disagreement, why not follow the Humane Society’s recommendation and err on the side of humane treatment for the animals that make the main ingredient in your McMuffins?

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