McDonald’s announces plans to phase out cage-eggs in its restaurant in the USA and Canada within ten years.

VIER PFOTEN welcomes the decision but hopes for quicker phase-out


11. September 2015 – The international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS welcomes the announcement of fast-food giant McDonald’s to end its use of eggs from laying hens kept in cages in ten years time in its USA and Canada restaurants.

“This decision could help lead to a major shift, as more farms in the USA and Canada will start working with cage-free keeping, thus fulfill the growing expectations of consumers for animal friendlier products,” said Martina Stephany, Director of the Farm Animals and Nutrition Department at FOUR PAWS. “It would be ideal if McDonald’s is able to complete the full shift to cage-free eggs within less than ten years.”

McDonald’s made this commitment public towards animal friendlier production last Wednesday. Up to 90% of laying hens in both the USA and Canada are still kept in cage-systems.

In Europe, McDonald’s has been 95% cage-free as of 2012 and sources eggs from barn or free-range kept laying hens. A small percentage of ready-made products that McDonald’s procures could still contain cage-eggs.

Globally, more than 60% of eggs are sourced from cage-kept laying hens. Cage-systems are far from being species-appropriate for laying hens. Laying hens spend their entire lives on a wire mesh flooring and on a space so small that it does not exceed an A4-paper. 

“Information on the sourcing of the eggs that land on our plates and whether they come from cage or cage-free kept is not always available” says Martina Stephany. “FOUR PAWS demands mandatory labelling of fresh and processed eggs. Consumers can only then have the possibility to decide for animal friendlier products.”

In Europe, a mandatory labelling requirement is only enforced for fresh eggs. In the USA and Canada, mandatory labelling requirements are not in place.


Australia: a farmer sentenced to a $300,000 fine for selling cage eggs under the label "free range"

In Australia, the Federal Court has condemned a Egg producer to a unusually high penalty for having misleaded the consumer. Indeed, the condemned company was selling eggs under the name "free range" accompanied with pictures of free outdoors hens, when in facts most of the eggs were coming from hens reared in cages.

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Laying Hens: Italy condemned by the EU Court of Justice for infringement


On May 22 2014, the EU Court of Justice condemned Italy for infringement of the Council Directive 1999/74/EC of 19 July 1999 laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens.

This Directive also called the "laying hen Directive" came into force on January 2012 after a twelve years transition period during which Member States should take the necessary steps to comply with the Directive. In particular, the Directive provided that up from January 2012, rearing of laying hens in "traditional battery cages" would be prohibited, as well as the trade, import and export of eggs coming from these kinds of rearings. Consequently, since this date, only eggs coming from "enriched cages", barn eggs and free-range eggs are allowed to be produced and traded in the EU.

Despite the ban and the long transition time to apply it, and several "warnings" (within the preliminary infringement procedure) from the EU Commission, Italy has waited spring 2013 before starting to change its legislation, and the effects of the change have not been noticed before summer 2013. Therefore, the EU Commission decided to bring Italy in front of the EU Court of Justice for infringement following Article 268 TFEU. 

According to the EU Commission, when the ban entered into force, there were still on the Italian territory 239 farms rearing 11,729,854 laying hens in non-enriched traditional cages.

To defend itself, Italy tried to argue that the delay in implementing the ban was resulting from problems existing in its internal legal order, and moreover during this time the trade of these illegal eggs was limited to the Italian territory. But the EU Court rejected these arguments and condemned Italy. The exact amont of the fine will be decided later.

Please find here the full text of the judgment (available up to now only in Italian): Judgment of the Court – 22 May 2014 "Commission v Italy", Case C-339/13 (not yet published)

Please also find here some more information about the EU laying Hens legislation: and here: