Although iconic food brands such as Subway, Burger King and Starbucks are making chickens’ lives easier, a McDonald’s announcement shows that they still have a long way to go.
Fast food is not the best place to look when it comes to animal welfare. To avoid the pressure to raise farm animals responsibly, convenience, price, and lack of consumer interest are all common excuses.
In recent years, however, the ice has started to melt and McDonald’s has been a leader in certain markets. For example, you can get a burger made from grass-fed beef or a McMuffin with organic coffee in a UK McDonald’s.
I do not doubt their sincerity. In my role as World Animal Protection, we have had positive conversations about the strong business benefits of improving animal welfare.
The hardest part about hitting chickens is
McDonald’s chicken is a prime example of a McDonald’s meal that’s not so happy. Because there is no proper policy, your chicken nugget or burger may have been made from an animal that was bred to grow at a breakneck pace, reaching slaughter weight in 40 days and being kept in a cramped warehouse.
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Factory-grown chickens can suffer from pain in the legs, heart, and lungs, skin lesions, stress, and even early death.
Neglecting the major problems
So when I received the news that McDonald’s had committed to giving better lives to chickens last week, it was a surprise. The details are quite interesting. By 2024, 70 percent of chickens in its global supply chains will be equipped with enrichments like perches and pecking items to encourage natural behaviors and improve their mental and physical well-being. A better pre-slaughter procedure (at least in the USA and Canada) will help reduce stress at the end of life.
Here’s the problem: McDonald’s should be making improvements to its chicken farm. For example, a factory-grown chicken may have less floor space than an iPad. They also need to use healthier breeds.
The company instead promises to do more research. However, more research won’t be enough; clear leadership and concrete commitments are needed to help breeding and poultry companies grow faster.
Momentum is growing
We know what chickens need to live a decent existence. These include proper space, natural light, a stimulating environment, and the ability to move freely. It is also important to avoid living in a body that has been raised to extremes, making it difficult for chickens to support their own weight. This seems like a reasonable request.
A growing number of companies are now in agreement. In the past year, some of the most iconic brands, such as Subway, Burger King and Starbucks, have signed up for a simple, clear list of science-based questions, which has been created by the top animal organizations around the world, including us.
These commitments will make a significant difference in the lives of billions upon billions of chickens.
In fact, Kraft Heinz Company joined the group forward-thinking businesses in agreeing to meet our requests on the same day as the McDonald’s news. Momentum is growing and many companies don’t want be left behind.
I am looking forward to the day that McDonald’s joins this group. It is only a matter time. It’s currently a “good start”, but we must work harder.