McDonald’s will become the first fast-food chain to use 100% Freedom Food pork from the end of this month.

The fast food chain has said it will use only Freedom Food certified bacon and sausage across its menus, in a “major milestone for animal welfare”, according to Freedom Foods.

McDonald’s said the move was made to “provide consumers with locally and responsibly sourced food on the high street, and to continue supporting British and Irish farmers.”

The restaurant will become the second biggest buyer of Freedom Food pork, with all farms supplying the chain “required to provide bright, airy environments for pigs, bedded pens and plenty of space for them to move around”. Around a third of pig farms meet Freedom Foods standards.

The Freedom Food market has been growing for a number of years, said David Squair, chief executive of the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme.

“McDonald’s has shown that it is possible to bring higher welfare food to consumers on the high street, and we hope that other restaurants will follow McDonald’s lead and more farmers will be inspired to adopt world-class animal welfare standards,” he said.

It was clear that animal welfare is now an important factor for consumers, alongside provenance and traceability, said Warren Anderson, vice-president of supply chain at McDonald’s UK.

“By increasing our investment in Freedom Food ingredients, our customers can continue to enjoy food that is responsibly sourced, tastes great and is helping to support British and Irish farmers too,” he added.

According to a nationally representative survey by researcher Populus, nearly three-quarters of consumers say they prefer to buy food that is produced on farms with high animal welfare standards. The poll also found price, animal welfare and traceability were the top factors behind their food-buying decisions.

Farming minister David Heath welcomed the commitment to support British farmers “who work hard to produce food to higher welfare standards”.

“It’s essential that consumers have confidence with the way their food has been produced and sourced,” he said.

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