It seems that almost every big brand and food retailer is making a declaration about becoming greener, more sustainable and increasingly more humane in their sourcing practices. Cage-free, free range, antibiotic free options are growing in popularity in egg farming and businesses are ready to capitalize on the brand benefits of more compassionate practices.

Some, like industry giant, McDonald's, cite their customers' changing expectations and preferences as the reason for making the recent commitment to source only cage-free eggs in Canada and the U.S. Whatever the cause, McDonald's landmark announcement to be cage-free by 2025, affects seven million hens, two billion eggs and is the most significant commitment of its kind.

“Because of McDonald's size and buying power, they can improve the lives of millions of hens” says Josey Kitson, executive director at World Animal Protection Canada. “Right now, the vast majority of hens in Canada are kept in small cages with little room to stretch their wings, but in typical cage-free barns, hens are able to express some natural behaviours like walking around, laying eggs in a nest box and perching. We see this as a big step in the right direction”.

While it will take 10 years to meet their ultimate goal of 100% cage-free, McDonalds' commitment to find cage-free eggs for its 1,400 Canadian restaurants will require a substantial investment from Canadian egg producers. With other heavyweights like Starbucks, Kellogg's, as well as Panera, Burger King and Taco Bell in the U.S., making similar commitments, it signals a philosophical shift in what consumers expect from fast food brands and producers are paying attention.

“The future of egg production in Canada is cage-free and businesses are seeing consumers as the driving force behind that” says Kitson. “Our site has a growing list of perceptive companies who are leading the way”.

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