McDonald’s has announced that they are “elevating [their] global commitment to source chickens raised with improved welfare outcomes”.
It’s a topic that has been on the company’s radar for decades, according to Bruce Feinberg, senior director at McDonald’s, responsible for Global Quality Systems for chicken, beef, pork, fish and dairy products.
“Shortly after I joined McDonald’s in 1998,” Feinberg wrote in a recent post, “we formed a council of animal welfare experts to help McDonald’s address emerging issues associated with food animal production.”
The hope out of this recent announcement, he wrote, is to provide a holistic picture of the lives of chickens in the supply chain, through outcome-based measures, and have “informed conversations with producers about where improvements might be required.”
The company outlined eight commitments to sourcing chickens “raised with improved welfare outcomes” in a release, as follows (verbatim):
- Improved Farm-Level Welfare Outcomes: Source chickens for the McDonald’s System that are raised with improved welfare outcomes. We plan to set targets, measure performance and report on key farm-level welfare outcomes across our largest markets.
- Innovative On-Farm Animal Health and Welfare Monitoring Technologies: Partner with technology companies, producers, and suppliers to develop on-farm monitoring systems to automate the gathering of key animal health and welfare indicators, including behavioral measures. Once established, these technologies will highlight potential areas for improvement in real time and will be among the first of their kind available at a commercial scale.
- Natural Behavior: Require chickens to be raised in housing environments that promote natural behaviors such as pecking, perching and dust-bathing. These behaviors are encouraged through enrichments, such as the provision of perches and pecking objects, access to floor litter 100 percent of the time, and providing a minimum of 20 lux light intensity during photoperiods, with a minimum of 6 hours of darkness (4 hours to be continuous) during a 24 hour time period, reflecting scientific evidence from poultry experts.
- Commercial Trials on Production Inputs: Conduct commercial trials across select markets in partnership with our largest global chicken suppliers to study the effect that various production parameters have on key welfare outcomes within large-scale, commercial conditions. These trials will measure the effects of inputs such as lighting, stocking density (space allowance), and genetics. This will enable us to identify best practices that support improved farm welfare outcomes in specific climates across the globe.
- Stunning: In the U.S. and Canada, transition to sourcing chickens that have been stunned by the use of Controlled Atmospheric Stunning (CAS), a method that is approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). CAS is currently practiced by many approved suppliers for McDonald’s restaurants in Europe and Australia.
- Accountability: Establish third party audits to ensure supplier’s farms are in compliance with McDonald’s new and more comprehensive chicken welfare standards.
- Feasibility Study: Complete an assessment by the end of 2018 to measure the feasibility of extending these commitments to the remaining global markets where McDonald’s operates.
- McDonald’s Advisory Council for Chicken Sustainability: Establish a global, multi-stakeholder Advisory Council focused on chicken sustainability, with participation from academics and scientists, suppliers and industry experts, animal welfare and environmental advocates to support our continued journey on chicken sustainability, inclusive of health and welfare.
These changes, according to McDonald’s, will impact more than 70 percent of their global chicken supply, applying to chickens raised for sale at restaurants in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, UK, and U.S.
“While it’s taken us years to get to this point,” wrote Feinberg, “we see the work in this area as a journey to building a stronger industry and a better McDonald’s and we believe these commitments will drive continuous improvement for the health and welfare of chickens in our supply chain.”
The company says its eight commitments will be fully implemented by 2024.
Editor’s Note: We have left a message with McDonald’s regarding the implementation of these changes, and what farmers who currently supply the chain may expect. We will update this post when we hear back.