UPDATE 2-McDonald's in U.S., Canada to use only cage-free eggs by 2025

Wed Sep 9, 2015 3:59pm EDT
 
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(Adds analysis of cost after California move)

By Lisa Baertlein and Sruthi Ramakrishnan

Sept 9 (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp's 16,000 U.S. and Canadian restaurants will serve only eggs laid by cage-free chickens within 10 years, the company said on Wednesday.

McDonald's USA has been buying more than 13 million cage-free eggs annually since 2011. The long-awaited switch is happening as North American egg suppliers are slowly starting to rebuild flocks after the worst bird flu outbreak in U.S. history.

The move comes as McDonald's, the world's biggest restaurant chain, is preparing to serve breakfast all day at U.S. outlets in October. McDonald's USA, which is fighting sagging sales, made waves in March by announcing a two-year plan to phase out meat from chickens raised with antibiotics used to fight human infections.

McDonald's buys about 2 billion eggs annually for its U.S. restaurants and 120 million for Canada to serve breakfast items such as Egg McMuffin and Egg White Delight.

Fast-food rival Burger King already has committed to using only cage-free eggs by 2017. Other large companies such as Starbucks Corp, General Mills Inc, Nestle, Sodexo Inc and Aramark also are in the process of switching.

Groups such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Mercy for Animals and World Animal Protection have successfully lobbied many companies to adopt animal welfare practices. Such groups also have won commitments from nearly 100 major companies to phase out so-called gestation crates, which are small cages for breeding sows.

Celebrities such as film star Ryan Gosling have teamed up with HSUS to pressure Costco Wholesale Corp to eliminate cage-confined chickens from the company's egg supply chain. HSUS said Costco has committed to going cage free, but has not set a timeline for its full transition. HSUS said Costco rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc also has not set a timeline.   Continued...