Animal Health and Welfare
We have a responsibility to care for the millions of animals in our supply chain. For more than a quarter of a century, we’ve worked with experts to enforce standards that protect and improve the health and welfare of animals.
Why it matters
While McDonald’s doesn’t raise any livestock, or operate any slaughter facilities, we understand our responsibility to improve the health and welfare of those animals in our supply chain throughout their lives. Additionally, animal health and welfare are critical for our supply chain as healthy animals assure our ability to serve safe food. For a global restaurant company serving 65+ million customers every day, this is non-negotiable for us.
On this page:
We have a responsibility to ensure that our suppliers implement practices that protect and improve the health and welfare of animals in our supply chain.
For more than a quarter of a century, we’ve collaborated with our suppliers, non-governmental organizations (NGO) and animal welfare experts to develop and improve the handling, housing, health and slaughter practices for the animals in our supply chain. In the early 1990s, we developed a set of Guiding Principles for Animal Health and Welfare that continue to direct our work and inform our decisions:
Quality: We believe treating animals with care and respect is an integral part of our commitment to serving McDonald’s customers safe food. Healthy animals provide safe food.
Animal treatment: The Five Freedoms (freedom from hunger / thirst, from pain, injury, or disease, to express normal behavior, and from fear and distress) and the provision of positive welfare for those animals in our supply chain are the fundamental responsibilities of food suppliers to the McDonald’s System. We maintain objective measurement systems at all our approved slaughter facilities to safeguard positive welfare and are committed to working further back into the supply chain to advance animal welfare at the farm.
Partnership: We’re committed to working with our suppliers, industry leadership and NGOs, to continue advancing as the science of animal health and welfare continues to evolve.
Leadership: To be a leader, we must act like a leader. We recognize that our position in the global marketplace comes with that responsibility.
Performance measurement: We set performance objectives for ourselves, through our suppliers, which drive continuous improvement in health and welfare outcome measures. We also ensure that our purchasing strategies align with our commitment to improving the health and welfare of animals in our supply chain throughout their lives.
Communication: We will continue to communicate our plans, programs, processes and progress surrounding animal health and welfare.
Some of our awards
- McDonald’s U.K. was awarded both the 2017 RSPCA Assured’s Food Service Award for commitment to Farm Animal Welfare and the Compassion in World Farming 2017 commendation for welfare standards in organic milk supply (a joint award with Arla)
- Henry Spira Corporate Progress Award 2016 by the Humane Society of the U.S.
- Good Egg Award 2016 by Compassion in World Farming for McDonald’s Australia and New Zealand
- Best Marketing Award 2016 by Compassion in World Farming for McDonald’s UK
Ethical practices for antibiotic use in food animals
According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today. The Company has maintained a global vision on antibiotic stewardship in food animals since 2003. In 2017, we released an update to our Global Vision for Antibiotic Stewardship in Food Animals (VAS) (pdf, 183KB), which seeks to preserve antibiotic effectiveness into the future through ethical practices today.
As a framework for antibiotic stewardship, it endorses animal production practices that reduce and, where possible, eliminate the need for antibiotic therapies in food animals, by adopting existing best practices and/or developing new practices. However, we understand that animals, like people, get sick and require treatment. Treating sick animals is consistent with the Company’s long-standing commitment to animal health and welfare. Engaging farmers, producers and veterinarians in the responsible use of antibiotics is key to achieving our vision of preserving antibiotic effectiveness for both humans and animals.
With the VAS as our guiding principle, we will develop species-specific policies outlining our requirements and implementation timelines for suppliers providing chicken, beef, and pork to McDonald’s restaurants.
As part of our commitment to responsibly sourced chicken, in 2017 we released our Chicken Antibiotics Policy in markets around the world. It sets out to eliminate the use of antibiotics defined by the World Health Organization as Highest Priority Critically Important to Human Medicine (HPCIA) in our chicken supply chain by 2027. We are taking a tiered approach to implementation of this global policy, as follows:
- By 2017: 100% of chicken served in the U.S. is free of antibiotics important to human medicine. We have achieved this goal - since 2016, no chicken served in the U.S. is treated with antibiotics important to human medicine.
- January 2018: HPCIAs eliminated in broiler chicken for Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., and Europe,1 with an exception for Colistin for Europe only; implementation of all other elements of the Global Chicken Antibiotics policy across all markets, including a prohibition on routine preventive use.
- January 2019: The usage of HPCIAs will be eliminated in broiler chickens for Australia and Russia, and Europe plans to have removed Colistin. As of July 2019, all chicken suppliers to Australia and European markets have eliminated the usage of HPCIAs in our chicken supply chain. For new suppliers in Russia (added after July 2018), an extension has been granted until the end of 2021, to enable them to responsibly convert their supply chain to colistin-free.
- January 2027: HPCIAs will be eliminated in all other designated markets2 around the world.
As part of our commitment to responsibly sourced beef, in 2018 we released our new Antibiotic Use Policy for Beef. Through this commitment, in partnership with our suppliers and producers, we will reduce the overall use of antibiotics important to human health, as defined with the World Health Organization, across our top 10 beef sourcing markets, representing more than 85% of our global beef supply chain.
Currently, there is limited antibiotic usage data available across the global beef industry. That is why McDonald’s, in collaboration with our suppliers and beef producers, is taking a strategic and phased approach:
- First, McDonald’s is partnering with supplying beef producers in our top 10 beef sourcing markets3 to measure and understand current usage of antibiotics across a diverse, global supply chain;
- By the end of 2020, based on what we have learned, we will establish reduction targets for medically important antibiotics for these markets; and
- Starting in 2022 – we will be reporting progress against antibiotic reduction targets across our top 10 beef sourcing markets. Full Policy Specifics Here.
Furthermore, all the milk used in McDonald’s U.S. low-fat white Milk Jugs, fat-free chocolate Milk Jugs will come from cows that are not treated with rbST5, an artificial growth hormone.
At the farm
McDonald’s has a long legacy of commitment to Animal Health and Welfare, and has a strong zero tolerance policy on cruelty to any animal within our Global Supply Chain.
Housing is critical to ensuring farm animal well-being and providing environments that are beneficial for overall health. As of 2018, approximately 35% of our global pork volumes are sourced from producers who do not use gestation crates. Across our Europe region4, 100% of our pork is sourced from farms that do not use gestation crates. In the U.K. and the Netherlands, we use 100% Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Assured pork, which means that all pig farmers are required to provide bright, airy environments for pigs, bedded pens and plenty of space for them to move around.
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. By 2017, McDonald's will source pork for its U.S. business only from producers who share our commitment to phase out gestation stalls.
100% of the chickens used for meat in our global supply chain are reared only in cage-free systems. We do not accept any chickens raised in caged housing, inclusive of stacked or patio systems.
Raising the bar on chicken welfare
In 2017, the Company announced a global commitment to source chickens raised with improved welfare outcomes. We’re committed to increased welfare outcomes for chicken sourced for sale in McDonald’s restaurants, through:
- Measuring key farm-level welfare outcomes on an ongoing basis, setting targets, and reporting on progress across our largest markets
- Developing state-of-the art welfare measurement technology
- Providing enrichments to support natural behavior
- Running commercial trials to study the effects of certain production parameters on welfare outcomes
- Implementing third-party auditing
- Transitioning stunning methods in the U.S. and Canada
- Establishing McDonald’s Advisory Council for Chicken Sustainability to support our continued journey on chicken sustainability
- Complete an assessment to measure the feasibility of extending these commitments to the remaining global markets where McDonald’s operates
These commitments impact more than 70% of our global chicken supply and will be fully implemented on or before 2024.
“I think it’s one of the most comprehensive corporate programs that I’ve seen for chickens.”
Temple Grandin, animal welfare expert and livestock researcher who pioneered humane slaughterhouse practices
We recognize that how live animals (beef, pork and chicken) in our supply chain are transported is important. As such, we work with local industry and regulatory authority on live animal transport programs such as those found in Canada, Australia and the E.U., focused on limiting transport time, or when transport times exceed local regulatory guidance, provide feed, water, and rest, as determined best practice. Where legislated (such as in the E.U.), transport time requirements must be met.
No beef may come from cattle that were shipped for more than 24 hours by sea and sent directly to slaughter. Shipment by sea for the purpose of relocating animals (Tasmania to Australia) or for establishing/expanding herd population (Russia from the U.S.) will be reviewed for exception on a case-by-case basis by McDonald’s Global Supply Chain & Sustainability teams. Without prior approval, all beef from such cattle is prohibited from entering the McDonald’s supply chain.
We also aim to minimize pre-slaughter transport times in our supply chain, in line with expert animal welfare guidance. In Europe, transport times for beef and pork are by law required to be under eight hours*. In 2017, this accounted for approximately 30% of global beef volumes and 15% of global pork volumes.
Beef, chicken, and pork suppliers are strongly encouraged to minimize transport times, reducing animal stress. In all cases, company specific animal welfare programs should seek to minimize animal transport times as much as possible.
*Except in rare, non-routine exceptions that are fully defined in our policy and grounded in the best-interest of the animals.
Welfare at slaughter
The Company has specific expectations to ensure that animals are humanely slaughtered in the approved slaughterhouses within our global supply chain. These expectations are defined in species specific standards and audit criteria and verified through independent audits at these approved slaughterhouses of specific key welfare indicators. These key welfare indicators (KWIs) are objective measurement systems are aligned with recognized national and international standards such as the North American Meat Institute and the World Organization for Animal Health. Slaughterhouses on our approved supplier list are required to meet these welfare standards, which 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 McDonald’s Stun Efficacy requirements will results in immediate de-listment from the Company’s approved supply list. Regardless of stun method, any sensible animal observed on the bleed rail constitutes an automatic audit failure. We estimate that more than 95% of chicken and beef volumes in our system are stunned prior to slaughter. The exception being those markets that do not allow stunning prior to slaughter for religious or ritual reasons.
As a global company, we comply with religious slaughter requirements including Halal and Kosher, when required by our customers. 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, such as Dr. Temple Grandin, to better understand and improve performance on issues associated with animal welfare 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.
- McDonald’s Animal Health and Welfare Guidelines and Audit Criteria: Chickens at Slaughter (pdf, 477KB)
- McDonald’s Animal Health and Welfare Religious Slaughter Requirements (pdf, 331KB)
How we stay on track
We have specific expectations to ensure animals are humanely slaughtered in our global network of approved abattoirs. The abattoirs on our approved supplier list are required to meet these welfare standards, which are independently audited annually to ensure compliance. 100% of the suppliers listed on our approved supplier list that provide the McDonald’s System with beef, chicken and pork raw materials are compliant with the Company’s requirements. If an approved abattoir fails an audit, it will be immediately suspended from our approved supplier list and shipment of raw material from that facility will cease. In the spirit of continuous improvement, we will work with suppliers to improve their practices and help them develop robust and sustainable corrective action plans, after which they can be re-audited by an independent third-party audit for compliance and re-approved if the noncompliance was addressed. In the case of repeated failed audits, the abattoir will be removed from our approved supplier list.
Our animal health and welfare expectations, along with all other global sustainable sourcing expectations, for all suppliers are outlined in our Global Sustainable Sourcing Guide. Our global and market Quality Systems teams are in frequent contact with our suppliers, reviewing supplier performance to ensure policies are properly implemented and consistently met.
We have also aligned with the National Milk Producers Federation’s Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program in the U.S. As of September 2018, all U.S. dairy suppliers have been tracking the percentage of the farms in their supply chain that have completed the FARM 2nd party assessment. McDonald’s U.S. is on track to achieve its 2020 commitment for all U.S. dairy product suppliers to be able to demonstrate that 100% of farms in their supply chain participate in FARM and have completed the 2nd party assessment.
Cage-free and free-range eggs
In the U.S., France, Germany, U.K., Australia, and Canada, we have committed to sourcing only cage-free eggs by 2025 at the latest. 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).
U.S.: In April 2019, McDonald’s USA announced that we are making significant progress toward our commitment to source 100% cage-free eggs by 2025. The egg supply chain is now 33% percent cage-free, and in 2019 we will source more than 726 million cage-free eggs for our McDonald’s U.S. restaurants.
Learn more about our McDonald’s USA progress by reading our infographic or watching our video:
Canada: Committed to source 100% cage-free eggs by 2025.
UK: Breakfast menu contains free-range eggs sourced from British and Irish farms, most of which are independent and family-owned. All eggs conform to the Lion Quality Code of Practice or equivalent and meet strict RSPCA Assured standards.
Germany: Exclusively uses free-range eggs for its breakfast menu and in all sauces.
France: Uses only French-sourced and free-range eggs for Egg McMuffins. In 2017, McDonald’s France used over 7.3 million eggs for Egg McMuffins.
Australia: As of the end of 2017, McDonald’s Australia uses 100% cage-free eggs for their breakfast McMuffins, wraps, and burgers.
New Zealand: McDonald’s New Zealand uses free-range eggs sourced from New Zealand farms for their breakfast McMuffins, wraps, and burgers.
Netherlands: 100% of the eggs used in menu and as ingredients in McDonald’s Netherlands products are free range.
1. For the sake of this policy, Europe includes the following countries: Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ukraine.
2. Markets covered by the policy include; Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Australia, Russia, China and Europe.
3. Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, the U.K and the U.S.
4. Our Europe region is defined as countries within the EU, plus Norway and Switzerland.
5. No significant difference shown between milk from rbST-treated and non-rbST treated cows.