Fast food restaurant chain McDonald’s UK has unveiled the results of new research quantifying the impact of hen smothering in the UK.
The business, which sells millions of eggs in its restaurants, is launching a major new TV advertising campaign to shine a light on the care taken by the British and Irish farmers that supply free-range eggs for its UK menu.
Funded by McDonald’s as part of its Farm Forward programme and undertaken by the Food Animal Initiative (FAI), together with McDonald’s suppliers, the research analysed the incidence, location, timing and management of hen smothering on a commercial scale. The results reveal for the first time that more than half of commercial flocks in the UK are affected by smothering and that it is an unpredictable and difficult issue for farm managers to address.
The research was commissioned amidst concerns from the egg industry around the frequency, economic and welfare impact of hen smothering in the UK. Smothering occurs when birds mass together, often on top of each other, which can result in death from suffocation.
Based on a survey of producers supplying two egg companies that supply McDonald’s and representing more than a third of the UK’s free-range egg supply, the findings identified two measures currently in use by farm managers for tackling the issue: blocking off corners within nest boxes and encouraging birds to walk around more frequently.
Since becoming one of the first high street restaurant chains to work with its suppliers to make the switch to free-range eggs over 15 years ago, the free-range egg market in the UK has quadrupled in size. Today, farmers that supply McDonald’s are required to provide a minimum of five per cent tree cover on their ranges to provide shelter and shade whilst encouraging hens to roam away from the hen house, which contributes to an improvement in the welfare of the flock. The new TV campaign, The Tree, shows this extra care taken by these farmers as an example of the care taken by all British and Irish farmers that supply McDonald’s menu with top quality ingredients.