Breaking News: McDonald’s Announces Cage-Free Commitment for Laying Hens

By on September 9, 2015 with 73 Comments

Following years of dialogue with The HSUS and extensive research, McDonald’s has announced a firm timeline for eliminating the cage confinement of egg-laying chickens from its U.S. and Canadian supply chains, by switching to 100 percent cage-free eggs. The company announced this policy just moments ago, and we’re lauding the move.

Like its decision nearly four years ago to phase out pork from operations that confine breeding sows in gestation crates, this hen-welfare announcement makes plain that the future of egg production is cage-free. In practical terms, it now looks like simply swapping battery cages for larger, colony-style cages would be a very dangerous investment for anyone in the egg industry.

Following McDonald’s gestation crate announcement three years ago, more than 60 major food companies announced similar policies. We expect the cascade of laying-hen-welfare announcements – already in motion with pledges from Compass Group, Sodexo, Aramark, Burger King, Starbucks, Unilever, and others – to similarly accelerate, thereby hastening an end to the era of extreme confinement of farm animals.

Battery cages are perhaps the cruelest factory-farming invention. HSUS undercover investigations have documented the suffering caused by the extreme overcrowding in these wire contraptions, where birds are confined to cages so small and tight, they can’t even flap their wings – let alone perch or nest. It’s a near-complete deprivation of all that comes naturally to these animals.

Currently, McDonald’s U.S. and Canada supply chains annually use over two billion eggs from caged chickens—meaning this shift, once implemented, will directly improve life for nearly eight million animals per year. That’s eight million fewer individual animals enduring the misery of suffering virtual immobilization in cramped cages on factory farms. These eight million animals will be able to walk inside a barn, spread their wings, perch, lay their eggs in nests, and engage in other important natural behaviors denied to caged hens.

These are big numbers—almost unimaginably so – but it’s real animals we’re talking about, and this decision can alleviate a good share of their misery. While McDonald’s is taking 10 years to complete the shift, we’re optimistic that the switch can occur even quicker, and that other companies will do the same.

McDonald’s has already implemented a similar policy in other parts of the world, including Europe, thanks in large part to the good work of our friends at Compassion in World Farming, which of course also is supportive of the cage-free-egg policy in the United States. The HSUS is proud to have spearheaded a movement that, over the last decade, has resulted in sweeping change in how our nation farms and eats. We’re getting calves out of veal crates and pigs out of gestation crates. We’re getting hens out of cages. We’re making these practices illegal or at least unacceptable.  The public gets it, and increasingly so does the food industry. We’re driving the market away from caged products and toward more humane and sustainable practices.

For years, many in our movement considered it an almost fanciful and far-fetched idea that we could actually end cage confinement of veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens. But that day is coming, and faster than almost anyone expected. There’s no turning away from it. Animals built to move should be allowed to move. It’s time for all of these industries to accept the inevitability of that outcome.

These changes are now inexorable and consumer attitudes irreversible, driven by a combination of ballot measures, courtroom victories, corporate policies, public awareness campaigns, and innovations in agriculture.

Side by side with so many major food companies, we’re working to assure a better future for farm animals. Today’s announcement from McDonald’s is surely one of the biggest moments in our long march forward.

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  1. Bp says:

    I wouldn’t exactly call being jammed in a barn with no outside access “natural environment or behavior “. Better than cages, I guess, but not much!

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Hi BP, I am the blog editor of A Humane Nation. As HSUS notes in today’s NY Times story, while cage-free doesn’t mean cruelty-free, it’s a big improvement over battery cages. Cage-free hens can walk, spread their wings, perch, nest, and engage in other important behaviors denied to caged hens. You can read more about the difference between cages and cage-free at:

      • Elisha Winstead says:

        Why or how in the world would it take 10 years to actually make this happen? There’s really no point in releasing this statement for praise if it’s not something that isn’t even going to happen for ten MORE years. Maybe they should all be required to stop selling food until ALL animals have better conditions in every way.

        • Linda Jean says:

          Totally agree..Maybe if they keep raising prices, no one can afford to eat farm animals which would lead to less demand forcing farm animals better living conditions. Baby lambs, calves and other young animals should not have to endure such pain an a young age when so many other good foods are available. Shame on mankind!!!!!!
          Let’s get this moving!!!

      • Linda Schultz says:

        It’s great that attention is finally going towards ending the ANIMAL torture & cruelty of factory farm animals. But what about the rest of them still being tortured every day. And why should this take 10 years to complete? This cruelty needs to end right now. Put the animals ahead of profit and greed in the corporate America. I am speaking of all torturing going on across this planet. These animals need our help now, not eventually.

    • Sherry Reynolds says:

      I agree with you but every step counts! This is a big step, that I’m happy about.

    • Roberta says:

      Yes, a much better environment indeed.

    • BB says:

      I was thinking the exact same thing. Cage free… but free roaming?

    • Jill says:

      i was wondering the same as Bp! does this mean that they will get to roam outside and see the light of day? no cages is probably better than being crammed into little cages where the eggs roll down and are easy for humans to collect but will they be crammed into a filty metal building in the dirt and feces of other birds? i’d just like to know . . .

      happy birds produce better quality eggs which is better for OUR overall health too! why cant’ birds be let outside like they are on farms?

      i’d like to say congratulations for the great work HSUS! i guess it’ll have to be one step at a time until we can universally change the mindset of the greedy anything-for-a-buck mentality that farmers have been forced to adopt by the people that pay them to raise chickens. and yes, that IS true. watch the documentary Food, Inc. and you’ll see what i mean!

    • CC says:

      Do you want a 6 square foot home or 600,000 square foot? Is the prisoner happier in 8 by 10 cell all day or happier free to roam the entire prison? A dollar a day for 8 hrs labor or 1million a day? More freedom always feels good. Humans have all kinds of boundaries we’re limited by. Besides the cost of gathering eggs from chickens that you have no clue where they are would be very high.

    • cupcake says:

      well not really

  2. Anne Clare says:

    Congrats to McDonald’s!!!

  3. Anne Clare says:

    Congrats to McDonald’s!!!!

  4. Teri medley says:

    Terrific News! Thank you for your tireless efforts in making this a reality!

  5. David Cottrell says:

    PRAISE THE LORD!!!!!!!!@!!

  6. Kenny cohen says:

    It’s about time EXCELLENT

  7. Alison says:

    In how many years before they do ?

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      The McDonald’s announcement commits the company to reaching a 100 percent cage-free egg supply chain within the next 10 years.

  8. nancy coupe says:

    Thank god!

  9. Kay says:

    This announcement is great. However, when it is put into effect and reaches the animals, then it is worthy of celebration. Until then, it is still only a hope.

  10. Theresa Singleton says:

    Awesome !! I’m so happy about the changes. I wish that no animal had to suffer and be abused it makes me so sad how some animals have to live their lives and it uncalled for. Thank you everyone who had any involvement in making this happen I love it! !!!

    • Tina says:

      Theresa, you are right on, and I feel the same way! God gave us all the beautiful creatures not to abuse, but to take care of in a humane way! It should be mandatory for all livestock to be treated with the respect they deserve!

  11. Lisa Jones says:

    Will this change be implemented immediately? It’s sad that it has taken a decade of suffering for these animals. This change needs to take place now.

  12. Judith Poole says:

    Guess McDonalds is trying to sound “decent or good or nice” to Animals..same as brutal wal marts claim or statement they are stopping caged Pigs…this all Would be great..IF the two industry giants would come through..actually would be beyond Great for these helpless innocent needing to live free and not be butchered precious Animals!!!! But whatever these giants say does not actually mean they will do this…these statements are a cover for what they really do to helpless Animals and they are making these statements to get we, as Animal Rights Activist, to back off..praise them for their supposedly change and leave them alone BUT…horrific torture and murder of these precious living beings will know why??!! They make lots and lots..billions of dollars from doing this to these Beautiful Animals…so very very sad!!!!:(((

    • Leisa says:

      I see all the bravos of a victory. Is it ???

      McDonald’s is trying to look like the good one but instead they are still a big conglomerate who cares nothing about animal welfare.

      If you took a look at what “cage free” environments are, you would realize that it is not a true victory. Less cruel, yes, but they are suffering needlessly.

      Chickens in nature do not lay as many eggs and therefore they are spent at an early life.

      The only victory is to eliminate eggs from your diet, in fact better yet, go vegan and end cruelty entirely.

    • Linda Schultz says:

      Thank you Judith Poole for seeing exactly what I see in this news from McDonald’s. It is just an attem

      • Linda Schultz says:

        It is just an attempt to keep us quiet and believe that the animals are going to be OK. What a sad world to those who actually believe they caee

  13. Tracy Washburn says:

    This ie wonderfull

  14. Debera says:

    Not good enough!!!

  15. Star says:

    I understand that the slaughtered chickens that McDonsld’s uses for its meals are poorly treated and die miserable deaths as they can hear the anguished cries of the animals being slaughtered ahead of them. They fight desperately to escape but are scooped by machines to their deaths.

    Is anything being done to improve the methods of killing and the lives of chickens that are destined for slaughter so that they don’t feel terrified when their end is near?

  16. Carol Marquart says:

    Happy to hear this about McDonalds in regards to the egg laying hens. We need more places to commit to doing the same. Egg substitutes are a healthier choice and better for the hens to. Stop the cruelty for these poor animals.

  17. Donna Baisley says:

    I am HAPPY that *Humane Conditions* for egg laying hens, will be implemented and CRUELITY will not be a part of their life and our food chain….

  18. Lisa Myers says:

    Hopefully these chickens will be given adequate room to move around and not be crammed tightly into barns. What many people don’t realize is that keeping animals in unnatural situations causes stress on them, which causes them to get sick easier, which causes farmers to use antibiotics to treat and PREVENT illness and that is, in addition to being cruel to the animals, what is leading to antibiotic resistant bacteria.

    • Ronda Sanders says:

      Very, very true. Katie Couric did a great story on antibiotics resistance everyone should watch. Called “Superbugs”. She had people on the show who barely survived and a doctor on the show who shared great information. Too much antibiotics are showing up in food, even milk…. We should all be very concerned!

  19. lee glusing says:

    Thank you, & everyone for your kindness.

  20. mary says:

    You need to explain to the public what cage free really means. They’re housed in tin buildings that can become very hot. There is no room to move, workers step on them, throw them against walls, deliberatly bash their heads. There is no natural ground to scratch and peck and look for bugs. No sun, no clouds, no rain. Feathers coming out, birds are sick etc. They are not any better off either way.

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Cage-free doesn’t mean cruelty-free, but it’s a big improvement over battery cages. Cage-free hens can walk, spread their wings, perch, nest, and engage in other important behaviors denied to caged hens. You can read more about the difference between cages and cage-free at:

    • Pat says:

      Don’t you think that a person who would treat any animal this way – “workers step on them, deliberately bash their heads” is the kind of person who pulls the wings off flies and short of locking them up in their own cage what are you going to do? In my opinion the answer is better birth control education and access so there aren’t so many people eating chickens and eggs in the first place.

  21. Laura Aragon says:

    Thanks for all youe efforts done. One victory means alot!!!

  22. Lindsay Hull says:

    If people can make this assumption off of chickens, what about pigs???? They are highly intelligent beings, forced into slavery. Please people, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. A pig is more intelligent then your household animal. Just think about that please

  23. Emily foresyth says:

    I am so happy. I will be eating at McDonalds more than the other chains of fast food and restaurant. Now if we could stop the meat market that would be wonderful. We have animal no kill shelter helping the abused and strayed as best they can,but more needs done. Keep up the great work.

  24. Heidi ruzek says:

    It makes me smile to hear this news!
    Please continue to pressure these companies to make this change sooner rather than later. Ten years of misery is still too long.

  25. Emily Shipley says:

    I became a vegetarian over 10 years ago because of all the cruelty to these poor farm animals. Will never eat meat again. Thank God and all his greatness that you are making head way with these companies. Thank you for your hard work.

    • Mimi D says:

      I only became vegetarian a year ago due to the torture of farm animals and have not bought anything leather or fur for many years and shall continue to do so, thankfully my daughter has followed suit. My only concern for the chickens is that although they have been freed from the cages that just means that they will still remain in the barns, where they are crammed in to fill every inch!

  26. Jennifer Pokrandt says:

    Great news! Thanks for working tirelessly on this!

  27. Danielle Liberio says:

    Thanks HSUS for winning the fight on McDonald’s ending the use of horrible crates. the major decision McDonald’s and other corporations will be ending crate use is not only the humane thing to do but will give these living beings a more quality life which is long needed and the right thing to do. Social media was a major help as well so everyone knows the torture and hell these poor chickens are going through being crammed and unable to even move around. Thank you and all involved in ending this practice.
    What will be done with the baby male chicks seen on videos posted on social media where they are crushed on a conveyer belt because they are male chicks.
    Please help end that too. That’s beyond horrible and baby male chicks deserve to live too, not crushed to death then being used as chicken mc nuggets. Thanks

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Hi Danielle, I am the blog editor. The HSUS worked with Unilever, another very large company, to work to find alternatives to the cruel practice of destroying baby male chicks, and we continue to strongly encourage companies to follow Unilever’s lead. You can read more about that here:

    • Christine Lee says:

      Actually, the method I’ve seen used to get rid of male chicks is to throw them into a chopper that literally grinds them up in an instant…horrors!
      They die instantly, but what would that do to a person? To callously throw a tiny chick into a grinder because it is a male and won’t produce eggs? It’s just inhumane and unnatural to do that to a living creature, so one would have to turn off something human inside to ne able to do that. Give the male chicks to poor farmers and let them live…I hope this horrible practice ends now…

  28. Pjtexas says:

    We, the consumers, have the power!!! THANK YOU HSUS & MCDONALDS!!!

  29. Kimberly Ritter says:

    I’m happy to hear tht McDonald’s is going cage free .even though I don’t eat at McDonalds Im happy to see tht thy are starting to show some concern for farm animals.. I don’t condone the killing of animals but allowing them some freedom is a start

  30. Sandy thompson says:

    Small steps forward, hoping for big strides in the future! I just hope this is a true McDonalds decision that came from the heart, not some reason to gain media attention. What about the other fast food egg serving chains? Burger King, Arby’s, , etc. they all need to step up for fair treatment of animals?

  31. David Bernazani says:

    This is certainly good news, but I can’t bring myself to congratulate McDonald’s when they took far too long to make their decision. True, better late than never, but I wouldn’t encourage people to switch to their restaurants just because of this announcement.
    I haven’t been to a McD’s in over 12 years because even back then they were known for their callous corporate policies (“Fast Food Nation”), environmentally disastrous business practices (driving the factory farm industry, importing beef from clear-cut Brazilian rain forests), and just plain bad food (“Supersize Me”).
    Anyway at long last we have some improvement from them, and for that at least we should be grateful– and of course thankful to the HSUS for helping make this step towards a more humane economy possible.

  32. Gale Gault says:

    I didn’t read all the comments but I hope this also means that they are doing away with electrocution at the end off their egg laying life and allows the chickens to be set free for the rest of their lives. If they make a living for farmers they should get a pieceful existence for the rest of theirs.

  33. Gina says:

    Should of been from the start. The food of eggs from chickens laying in a stressed caged environment effects the food. Hope this guarantees free of hormones, abuse free and healthy chickens

  34. Mel says:

    Crazy that it took someone in charge to finally feel for other living creatures. I am finally feeling hope for the human race to start being humane. Now it’s time to get rid of the “killing machines” that are used to slaughter our food supply and do it where there is no suffering. The Judaic practice even during the time of Jesus used the practice of “Kosherizing” their food of no pain. Using the jugular vein to cause no pain. Any animal that had suffering is declared “UNKOSHER”. It makes sense. An animal that dies under stress releases hormones of stress and we ingest that and it becomes part of our bodies. They have had 5700 years of experience to perfect things.

  35. Greg Lazzaro says:

    All of this sounds real good,but to ,put a stop to this cruelty,we need to stop the Demand,and this would stop the supply, this is what would put those scumbag Farmers,and Ranchers,who run these cage farms, and factory farms,and all these fast food chains and restaurants, and the big store chains,would not have to order as much,I know that I am speaking for my self, when I say I would love to put these scum bags,who in vented these Gastation Crates, and cage farms,and factory farms,be put in to these cages, and crates,to live and die in,that would be call for celebration.

  36. Jess says:

    This is great news. However, I think we should be speaking more with our wallets by moving away from purchasing eggs from the grocery when possible, and boycotting restaurants that support cruelty.
    I haven’t purchased eggs in over two years, since I raised my own small flock of hens and roosters. I supply all my friends, family, and a few paying customers as well. My chickens have a huge place to sleep at night on natural tree limbs I set up in their coop and spend all their waking hours out in the pasture searching for bugs.. or running to the house to get treats from me. I will never go back to purchasing eggs from the grocery store or restaurants.

  37. Anne Garcia says:

    First time in this blog. First- Thank You HSUS. I’m not sure how this is being given a celebratory tone so soon, I also don’t want to seem negative for a decision to commit to any form of humane farming is a great one. What I find distressing in this decision by McDonald’s is their “commitment” or should I say announcement that the “cage free” environment will take a decade to actually implement. A serious wrong with this time frame. I see absolutely no excuse nor clear reasoning why a Corporation as lg. as this should require this amt. of time. Although it is a positive step, it’s just too little way too late. Immediate implementation is possible w/the supplier farms McDonald’s contracts along with more than enough ample monies readily available. I applaud any org that fights for the voiceless. In my opinion this feels like a slap in the face not only towards the public but even more so for all farm animals held, bred for slaughter in deplorable conditions. Cage Free doesn’t mean Cruelty Free, I’ve read every comment up to my post and most don’t even seem to be aware of the truth of this matter. Furthermore I feel our FDA, our Dept of Ag isn’t doing much of anything to change these horrific conditions. I thank you HSUS for all you work towards betterment of treatment for all animals. But I would be lying if I said “this is awesome news”. Ppl need to educate,should want to educate themselves on exactly how the meat and dairy products they eat lived, the abuse and indifference these animals have endured prior to slaughter. A step forward- yes but nowhere near gd enough.

  38. Cecilia says:

    CAFO is still CAFO whether you use cages or just cramp them up in a shack. Chickens naturally should be raised in areas that vegetation grows, not in the dark inside an over-crowded facility trembling over their own poop all day long, with or without cages. Guess this is another way for these big food companies to save money by removing the cages? And they try to gain positive publicity for it? Way to go Humane Society.

  39. Tina says:

    This comment: “These eight million animals will be able to walk inside a barn, spread their wings, perch, lay their eggs in nests, and engage in other important natural behaviors denied to caged hens.” brought me quite a bit of concern. Ok, so the chickens are out of cages….but according to the above statement, the chickens won’t see the light of day…they’ll be allowed to “walk INSIDE a barn?!” I’m certain this is still FAR BETTER than being unable to move their wings or perch…but please tell me that HSUS isn’t going to stop here?!?! While the statement made by McDonalds IS a move in the right direction for sure…but I fail to see it as the end of a fight for the rights of these animals!! Also, did I fail to see the DATE McDonald’s gave?

  40. Jon Rothstein says:

    Thanks Humane Society!!

  41. Renee Fox-Turbush says:

    This is good news it’s about time to hear this good news ! Thank you HSUS for all you do for animals! I just wanted to ask you what happen to that post about calling our senator’s to end testing on farm animals ? I lost it it was on Facebook news feed

  42. Gay Johnson says:

    They’re still a long way from riding the rail cars sending selfies back to the farmer, but its a big start!:-) 🙂



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