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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Is McDonald's putting the chicken before the egg?

That is how it appears, according to a 20/20 investigation of a factory chicken farm that supplies eggs to McDonald's.

Mercy for Animals, one of the leading animal rights organizations, sent someone undercover into Sparboe Farms, a factory chicken farm. What he found was not surprising, nor uncommon in factory farms across the US: overcrowded battery cages; dead chickens rotting in the same cages as live ones; cruel treatment such as stuffing chickens in co-workers' pockets and throwing them around; debeaking chicks; and more.

When 20/20 showed the footage to McDonald's, they immediately pulled their business from Sparboe, stating in a press release

“McDonald’s expects all of our suppliers to meet our stringent requirements for delivering high quality food prepared in a humane and responsible manner. Based upon recent information, we have informed our direct supplier, Cargill, that we are no longer accepting eggs from its supplier, Sparboe.  This decision is based on McDonald's and Cargill’s concern regarding the management of Sparboe’s facilities...

...Regarding the undercover videos, the behavior on tape is disturbing and completely unacceptable. McDonald’s wants to assure our customers that we demand humane treatment of animals by our suppliers. We take this responsibility – along with our customers’ trust – very seriously..."

Clearly a lot of this is hogwash. They do not have stringent requirements, because all of their animal products come from factory farms, which are always substandard. 

However, the excerpts from the press release above and below do reveal why their actions in this case are so important, and how we have a rare opportunity to make real change happen:

"...McDonald’s cares about how our food is sourced and we have a long history of action and commitment to improve the welfare of animals in our supply chain. We are a founding member of the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) and are participating in an unprecedented three-year study that compares traditional, cage-free, and enriched laying hen housing systems on a commercial scale. For our customers, that means we’re working with scientists and suppliers to determine the most optimal hen housing method considering impacts on hen health & welfare, food safety, environment, and other important factors.

"McDonald’s is proud to be recognized as a leader in the restaurant industry for serving safe, quality food. Customers can feel good about eating at McDonald’s.”

So why is this so important?
It's important because McDonald's is a big business whose primary purpose is to make money. They listen to one thing, and one thing only: money and the people who give it to them. 

The consumers who give them money are demanding humane treatment of the animals/animal products they consume. 

And whether we like it or not, McDonald's -- along with other colossal corporations like Walmart -- are market leaders and drivers. They are the customers for Big Ag, and just as McDonald's will listen to their customers, so will Big Ag.

This is not the first time corporations have changed their behavior due to their customer's demands. For example, McDonald's stopped using their signature"clamshell" containers due to consumers' concerns over the environmental impact of styrofoam. And Pepsi experimented with "real sugar" instead of corn syrup in the midst of public concern over soft drinks causing obesity. Costco stopped buying veal from a factory farm that was not treating the baby cows in a manner that sat well with the consumer. 

I could go on. 

And now it is time for McDonald's to listen to their consumers again.  
With McDonald's on high alert, we have an opportunity to influence their behavior. We can ask them to increase their standards and demand cage-free eggs. 

(It is important to note that cage-free is not humane, but it is better. And in a battle against the multi-million dollar Big Ag machine, we are gonna win slowly and with a thousand small steps. Cage-free is one pretty big step.)

The most important thing we can do is contact McDonald's today. 
We should tell them we are concerned about animal welfare. We want them to get cage-free eggs for all of their fast-food restaurants. We want them to step up like Burger King who is leading the fast-food industry with cage-free eggs, phasing out of gestation crates for pigs, and a veggie burger on the menu. We want them to be the sustainable leader they claim to be in their press release.

Here is how you can contact McDonald's: 
Phone: 1-800-244-6227
Tweet: @McDonalds
It is not often that an opportunity comes along like this to help improve animal welfare on a massive scale. 

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