Just over eight years ago, McDonald’s Corp. announced it would serve 100% cage-free eggs in its U.S. restaurants by 2025, an audacious goal that would require significant changes throughout the egg supply chain. This week, McDonald’s and its egg supplier, Cargill, released the news that the company has already achieved the goal well ahead of schedule.
When McDonald’s embarked upon the path to 100% cage-free eggs in 2015, there simply weren’t enough cage-free eggs available in the supply chain, according to a release from Cargill announcing the achievement. For perspective, Cargill says, McDonald’s purchased nearly 2 billion eggs in 2023.
“Our journey to move to sourcing 100% cage-free eggs in the U.S. was a huge undertaking,” Bob Stewart, SVP, North America chief supply chain officer for McDonald’s, explained in the release. “[It was] made uniquely possible by our owner/operators, Cargill and their egg producers, and our supply chain working together as one team.”
As McDonald’s egg supplier, Cargill stepped in to partner with the restaurant chain’s egg producers to supply the eggs and also create a sustainable, cage-free egg supply chain.
“When McDonald’s made the pledge to be cage-free in the U.S., Cargill, McDonald’s and our egg producers had to literally build the supply chain of cage-free eggs,” Kristin Tupa, sustainability manager for Cargill’s North American protein business, said in the Cargill release.
Converting egg farms to cage-free environments for the laying hens meant educating the producers on the space needed and behavioral enrichments (such as perches, scratch areas and nest boxes) for the birds, as well as the changes needed in care and animal husbandry.
Cargill and McDonald’s worked together to support the transition, hosting egg producers on trips to European cage-free operations, working with the producers to determine investments and changes needed, as well as sharing best practices in an annual egg producers summit. Cargill also provided nearly $850 million in financing since 2019 to help producers through the conversion, and offered long-term contracts for their eggs to help them obtain additional financing from lenders.