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December 8, 2010

HSUS' Shareholder Resolution Urges McDonald’s to Improve Food Safety in Company’s Egg Supply

Following food safety concerns recently highlighted by the largest egg recall in U.S. history, The Humane Society of the United States submitted a shareholder resolution Wednesday urging Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corporation to create a plan for transitioning its U.S. locations to cage-free eggs. Scientific studies have documented that cage-free egg facilities have significantly lower rates of Salmonella contamination than cage facilities.

“Piling hens into cages so small the birds can’t even extend their wings is both an animal welfare and food safety threat,” stated Dr. Michael Greger, director of public health and animal agriculture for The HSUS. “It’s time for the McDonald’s to follow the lead of major companies and phase-in cage-free eggs, which are better for animals and safer for consumers.”

Unlike many of its competitors, McDonald’s U.S. only uses eggs from hens confined in battery cages—cages so tiny, the birds can barely move for their entire lives. Major restaurant chains—including Burger King, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Subway, Sonic, Quiznos, Hardee’s, Red Robin, Carl's Jr., IHOP, Cracker Barrel and Golden Corral—use cage-free eggs. Hellmann’s mayonnaise announced that it will convert all 350 million eggs it uses each year to cage-free. And supermarket chains including Wal-Mart, Costco and Safeway have taken steps to increase their cage-free egg sales.

Every one of the more than half a billion eggs involved in this summer’s recall came from hens crammed into cages that deny them the ability to engage in many important natural behaviors. The best available science—a study of more than 5,000 egg operations across 25 countries—found that cage-free facilities are significantly less likely to harbor Salmonella.

McDonald’s exclusive use of eggs from caged hens in the United States starkly contrasts with its policies in other countries. McDonald’s U.K. locations only use cage-free eggs, and the company will no longer use battery cage whole eggs in its European Union locations by the end of 2010.

Facts

  • U.S. factory farms confine about 280 million hens in cages so small each bird has about as much space as a sheet of paper. Extensive scientific research confirms this causes suffering and threatens food safety.
  • Cage-free hens generally have two to three times more space per bird than caged hens. Cage-free hens may not be able to go outside and, like caged hens, may have parts of their beaks cut off, but they can walk, spread their wings and lay their eggs in nests—all behaviors permanently denied to hens crammed into cages.
  • Factory farming is a major social issue: A study by food industry consultancy Technomic ranked animal welfare as the third most-important social issue to restaurant patrons; an American Farm Bureau-funded report found that 89 percent of Americans believe that food companies that require their suppliers to treat farm animals better are doing the right thing; and a Citigroup report found that cruelty to animals presents a “headline risk” to restaurant companies. 

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Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching "HumaneTV" in the App Store. 

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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