McDonald’s calls for global standards for free range

McDonald’s customers are increasingly interested in value for money as well as other aspects, such as how its food is produced and whether it is healthy.

The restaurant chain currently uses around 81m free-range eggs every year in the UK and employs about 71,000 staff.

Speaking at the recent International Egg Conference in London, Dean McKenna, head of supply chain management at McDonald’s said: “We know that value is very important to our customers, particularly in the current climate.”

“Unemployment is rising, credit is tight and consumer confidence has crashed. It is an environment where essential values of good business are more important than ever,” he said.

Most consumers have the welfare of the birds in mind when buying eggs. Consequently, free-range is now a significant consideration in many egg-purchasing decisions.

Since 1998, McDonald’s has used free-range eggs, but the fast-food outlet went a step further last year in the UK by removing all eggs that weren’t free-range from their menu, including as an ingredient for sauces and coatings.

“We are the only quick-service restaurant chain, and one of the few retailers in general, to have done this,” said Mr McKenna.

“But we have to except, while our customer awareness of the exclusive use of free range eggs at McDonald’s has grown by a third in just a couple of years, it is still relatively low at 39%.”

Mr McKenna said that the lack of an industry-wide set of standards to clearly define welfare terms, such as the free range certification, leads to confusion and inconsistency among producers, suppliers, retailers and consumers.

This confusion was further compounded by supermarkets creating their own animal welfare sub-brands as a point of competitive differentiation.

This helps no one and could be potentially damaging to the reputation of the egg industry, he said.

Mr McKenna said that currently organisations such as Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA were setting the agenda as far as animal welfare is concerned.

“I don’t believe you as an industry should be happy or satisfied to allow these organisations to set your agenda or standards.”

He called for a globally-relevant set of standards as far as hen welfare was concerned, in the near future, to improve trust among consumers.

“I believe we can play an integral part in making this happen and promoting it to make it a success. It is important that no matter what the global climate imposes that we should look to the long term,” said Mr McKenna.