Animal Health & Welfare
More than ever, our customers want to know how their food is produced and where it comes from. McDonald’s is using our size and global reach to improve animal health and welfare in the McDonald's Supply Chain and ensure we source chicken, eggs, beef and pork from producers who share our commitments.
We care about the health and welfare of the animals in our supply chain and we know that our ability to serve safe, quality food comes from animals that are cared for properly. To achieve this, we are partnering with suppliers and producers across our supply chain to drive toward continuous improvement throughout their lives.
To achieve positive impact in the health and welfare of the animals in our supply chain, we focus on:
- Creating objective measurement systems that are third-party verified to measure performance against industry benchmarked standards.
- Taking a whole-system approach that considers everything from housing and husbandry to humane slaughter.
- Working with recognized subject matter experts and academia to access guidance and to challenge the way we think.
- Leveraging our global scale in our local markets to drive the right outcomes.
While our standards for animal welfare are global, they incorporate the geographic variations in the way animals are raised within a global supply chain. In this regard, we have come to realize that a focus on a desired outcome is the best approach, allowing the local producer to achieve that outcome based on their management system. Norm Stocker, Vice President of Eggs & Chicken at Cargill says, “As McDonald’s USA’s egg supplier, the commitment they made to source 100% cage-free eggs represented a shift not only for our business with them, but for the industry, given their position as a leader. Consumer preferences are changing and people are increasingly interested in how their food is sourced. McDonald’s has led the way, with a thoughtful and measured approach to switching to cage-free eggs to meet consumer demand at a massive size and scale.”
McDonald’s has led the way, with a thoughtful and measured approach to switching to cage-free eggs to meet consumer demand at a massive size and scale.
Norm Stocker, Vice President of Eggs & Chicken, Cargill.
Collaborating With Stakeholders
We believe that animal health and welfare is a pre-competitive opportunity and encourage industry and cross-sector collaboration. We rely on strategic and personal relationships with experts who provide guidance on our policies and implementation strategies in each of our local markets.
This is why, in 2018, McDonald’s formed the Chicken Sustainability Advisory Council (CSAC). The group includes genetics experts, farm management consultants such as FAI Farms, leading academics and researchers, such as Dr. Temple Grandin and Dr. Harry Blokhuis, and NGOs, including the World Wildlife Fund. Drawing on the expertise of CSAC members, we are implementing and evolving our chicken welfare and sustainability strategies.
In 2019, a global cross-functional team helped to define 15 globally aligned farm- and processing-level key welfare indicators (KWIs) for chicken. Measurement against these indicators started in January 2021. The KWIs are objective measurements aligned with recognized national and international standards such as the World Organization for Animal Health and the National Chicken Council.
McDonald’s is also a founding member of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) and many of the regional and national chapters around the world. We strongly support the five core principles of the GRSB, among them animal health and welfare.
In 2021, using an extensive goal-setting initiative, the GRSB launched its first Global Goal for Animal Health and Welfare. McDonald’s supports GRSB’s efforts to promote goals that reflect global opportunities for industry advancement and improvement, and we are proud to serve in leadership roles and in key working groups within the GRSB.
See our Sustainable Agriculture & Beef page for examples of how we’re bringing these commitments to life across our markets.
Helping Support the Sustainable Development Goals
Our animal health and welfare work helps support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all, in particular:
Goal: Animal Housing
In the U.S., we’re working with pork suppliers to phase out the use of gestation stalls (small, enclosed pens) for housing pregnant sows by 2022.
We achieved our 2017 milestone to source pork for our U.S. business only from producers who share our commitment to phase out gestation stalls.
The U.S. pork supply chain is currently tracking at around 50% of our target. Although progress and conversion rates have been delayed by the impacts of COVID-19 and the global outbreak of African Swine Fever, we remain committed to working with our suppliers and agricultural partners to achieve our commitment.
Goal: Cage-Free and Free-Range Eggs
The US has a goal of sourcing 100% cage-free eggs by 2025.
The U.S. egg supply chain is more than 60% cage-free. Canada now sources more than 55% cage-free eggs.
Australia’s egg supply chain is 100% cage-free.
All European markets have used cage-free eggs for the breakfast menu since 2011 (except Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine, which account for approximately 6% of whole eggs in Europe), while France, Germany and the U.K. have achieved a 100% cage-free egg supply chain.
Goal: Chicken Welfare
Our commitments to sourcing chickens raised with improved welfare outcomes impact more than 70% of our global chicken supply and will be fully implemented on or before 2024.
Ensuring Humane Slaughter
McDonald’s has stringent requirements regarding the humane slaughter of animals in approved slaughterhouses in our global supply chain. These expectations are defined through species-specific standards and criteria verified by independent audits. Slaughterhouses on our approved supplier list (ASL) for beef, chicken and pork are independently audited annually to ensure compliance.
Stunning animals to assure insensibility prior to slaughter is a critical animal welfare requirement for McDonald’s. Failure to meet our stun efficacy requirements results in immediate removal from our ASL. Regardless of stun method, any sensible animal observed on the bleed rail constitutes an automatic audit failure.
As a global company, we comply with religious slaughter requirements, including Halal and Kosher, when required by our customers. With the exception of a limited number of markets that do not allow stunning prior to slaughter for religious reasons, all animals within our supply chain are stunned before slaughter. For animals subject to religious slaughter, McDonald’s religious Animal Health and Welfare standards are strictly observed.
For more than two decades, we have worked with the industry and respected experts to better understand and improve performance on animal welfare issues at slaughter. We remain steadfast in our commitment to improving the health and welfare of animals in our supply chain throughout their lives, and we continue to monitor progress and identify opportunities to improve.
Ensuring Supply Chain Compliance
Our animal health and welfare requirements for all suppliers are defined in our Global Raw Material Sponsorship Program and further outlined in our Global Sustainable Sourcing Guide, as well as being embedded in our product Quality System Specifications. Our global and market Quality Systems teams are in frequent contact with our suppliers, reviewing their performance to ensure policies are properly implemented and consistently met.
We expect 100% of the abattoirs on our ASL to adhere to our standards for humane slaughter. Where suppliers are identified through independent audits as not complying, we work with them to develop their practices and, where necessary, implement robust and sustainable corrective action plans.
We have aligned with the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Program in the U.S. As of 2018, all U.S. dairy suppliers have tracked the percentage of farms in their supply chain that have completed the FARM second-party assessment. In 2021 McDonald’s USA achieved its 2020 commitment for all U.S. dairy product suppliers to be able to demonstrate that 100% of the farms in their supply chain participate in FARM and have completed the second-party assessment.
In the U.K. and the Netherlands, we only use Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Assured pork, which means that all pig farmers are required to provide bedded pens for pigs and environments with plenty of space for them to move around.
How We’re Sourcing Chicken Responsibly
In 2017, McDonald’s announced a global commitment to source chickens raised with improved welfare outcomes. To achieve this, we have outlined eight bold moves for sustainable chicken:
- Measuring key farm-level welfare outcomes – We do this an ongoing basis, setting targets and reporting on progress across our largest markets
- Developing state-of-the art welfare measurement technology – Through our Sensors, Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technologies (SMART) Broiler partnership with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), McDonald’s seeded $4.6 million ($2 million in investment with an additional $2.6 million enabled in matching grants) to develop systems to automatically gather on farm key health and welfare indicators, including behavioral measures. These technologies will be among the first of their kind available at a commercial scale and will help McDonald’s identify opportunities for improvement in broiler welfare.
- Providing enrichments to support natural behavior – We are working with supply chain partners to ensure housing environments promote natural behaviors such as pecking, perching and dust-bathing.
- Running commercial trials to study the effects of certain production parameters on welfare outcomes – We are conducting large-scale commercial trials in partnership with key global chicken suppliers to study the impacts that certain production parameters have on key welfare, environmental and farm-level outcomes.
- Implementing third-party auditing – As we implement our global broiler key welfare standards, we will establish third-party verification to confirm continuous improvement.
- Controlled Atmospheric Stunning (CAS) – CAS is a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved method that is recognized to be more humane for the animal, while also ensuring better conditions for workers. McDonald’s was one of the first retailers to implement a CAS system into a broiler supply chain in the U.S.; currently 100% of our Canadian supply chain and approximately 40% of our U.S. supply chain utilizes CAS, while it is widely practiced by McDonald’s suppliers in Europe and Australia. We are on track to achieve 100% CAS by 2024.
- Establish McDonald’s Chicken Sustainability Advisory Council, which has now been in operation since 2018 and is supporting our continued journey by providing crucial insights and knowledge.
- Complete an assessment to measure the feasibility of extending these commitments to additional global markets where McDonald’s operates.
These commitments will positively impact more than 70% of our global chicken supply and will be fully implemented by 2024.1
The chickens used for meat in our global supply chain are only reared in cage-free systems. We do not accept any chickens raised in caged housing, including stacked or patio systems.
I think it's one of the most comprehensive corporate programs I have seen for chickens because it includes welfare, environmental enrichment, and sustainability.
Dr. Temple Grandin, animal welfare expert and livestock researcher who pioneered humane slaughterhouse practices
Industry Partnership on Beef Sourcing
One of the ways we actively contribute to bringing the GRSB principles to life is through the European Roundtable for Beef Sustainability (ERBS). In 2018, McDonald’s chaired the ERBS as it set out its ambitious long-term commitments to beef sustainability, including several related to animal welfare:
- Target mortality rates are below 1.5%.2
- All animals have access to loose housing (when housed) by 2030.
- All animals are given pain relief (analgesics) for all surgical procedures and for all forms of castration, dehorning and disbudding.
McDonald’s is working with our suppliers and industry groups to implement these targets across our largest European sourcing countries. The target for loose housing will have a particular positive impact in Poland and Germany, where tethered systems are commonplace for dairy cattle during the winter months and where changes to this practice require high levels of investment at the farm level.
Sourcing Cage-Free and Free-Range Eggs
The U.S. egg supply chain is now more than 60% cage-free, and in 2020 we sourced more than 1.1 billion cage-free eggs for our McDonald’s U.S. restaurants.
Canada sources more than 55% cage-free eggs, and in 2020 we sourced nearly 60 million cage free eggs for our McDonald’s Canadian restaurants.
Australia’s egg supply chain is 100% cage-free.
We’ve been cage-free for the breakfast menu in all European markets since 2011 (except Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine, which account for approximately 6% of whole eggs in Europe).
All of the eggs used in our menu and as ingredients in McDonald’s Netherlands products are free-range. France, Germany and the U.K. have also achieved a 100% cage-free egg supply chain.
1 These commitments apply to chicken raised for sale at McDonald’s restaurants in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, U.K., and U.S.
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