After four months of campaigning asking for McDonald's Thailand to ban battery cage egg usage in their products, the giant food chain finally addressed the critics regarding how the eggs they buy are produced. Unfortunately, they didn't reply to Sinergia Animal and the over 15,000 consumers who signed our petition. Instead, they replied to The People, a Thai online media outlet, and with arguments that are far from the truth.
After reviewing McThai’s statement, Sinergia Animal has important concerns and questions. Here are 5 reasons why Mcdonald's is failing to address our campaign properly.
1. We use a reliable source for Salmonella contamination, contrary to what McThai states
Mcdonald's said that Sinergia Animal does not have a clear source that proves the higher risk of Salmonella contamination for eggs in the cage system. Sinergia Animal does have a clear source for this statement from the European Food Safety Authority. This is the largest study ever conducted in history comparing Salmonella contamination in cage versus cage-free systems. We are surprised to learn that McDonald’s Thailand has not fully read and checked the references of our online petition, which already has more than 15,000 signatures, and that uses this study as a source. We hope that Mcdonald's Thailand pays more attention to this text and its sources,
It is also expected that Mcdonald's knows that cage-free eggs are better for food safety. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have committed to sourcing only cage-free eggs in the US and Latin America.
2. Images used by Mcdonald's don't tell the whole story
McDonald’s says that the images Sinergia Animal uses in the campaign are not taken from their farms. We never claimed that the images we use in our campaign are from McThai’s suppliers. We already stated on our campaign video that the images we use are representative of the battery cage systems, and not from any specific suppliers. Furthermore, battery cage farms were invented for the industrialized production of eggs, and disregard the welfare of animals. Therefore, no matter where battery cages are in the world, hens will suffer similar welfare problems related to battery cages.
On the left: the image that McDonald’s sent to ‘The People’, which doesn’t portray how hens really live. The image looks more like “pullets”, or young chickens that don’t lay eggs yet.
On the right: the representation of hens in battery cages.
In fact, we are also quite confused by the image McDonald’s sent to 'The People' and the statement accompanying it. Also, this looks like a growing cage for pullets. Adult laying hens are likely to live in different cage systems that allow egg collection. As birds get older and grow, cages become more and more ugly, as they get less and less space to live.
3. Welfare problems in the cage-system cannot be denied
The science is clear that hens that are kept in cages are prevented from exhibiting natural behavior that is crucial for their well being. There are many studies that indicate hens confined in cages suffer from frustration, stress, and bone problems, among other issues. So, we are very confused to see McThai’s claim that their eggs come from hens that have “freedom to express normal behaviors”, as that would mean they live in cage-free systems.
Mcdonald's says the hens they use to lay their eggs can “stand and change their postures”. This is simply not good enough! For their well being, hens need to be able to walk around freely and perform natural behaviors that are important to them; e.g. perching, dust-bathing, roosting, foraging and nesting.
Mcdonald's says their suppliers' farms meet the standards defined by the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards. ฺBut these standards are only the minimum requirement in the laws, and are not considered to be good enough for animals and also not considered to be good enough by animal welfare specialists. And McDonald’s can do better than the minimum requirement.
Sadly, the Bureau recommends that each young hen must have 285 square centimeters and each laying hen must have 450 square centimeters. The space each hen has is still smaller than an A4 sheet of paper which has 623.7 square centimeters. And there is very little hens can do in a space smaller than an A4 paper. No animal deserves to live in such cramped conditions.
The one image that McDonald’s sent to The People doesn’t portray the living condition of hens. We would like to invite McDonald’s to present more images from their suppliers to the public.
4. It is not true that cage free eggs aren't available in Thailand
We are glad to see McDonald’s interest in the cage-free system. However, we do not think that the availability of cage free eggs should be an issue that holds McThai back from making their commitment. For example, CPF, their egg supplier, has already invested in cage-free systems. If McDonald’s shows interest in sourcing cage-free eggs, CPF will strive to produce more for them. And one way to show concrete interest and help move the cage-free system forward is to publish a commitment, like what McDonald’s has already done for the US and Latin America.
Screenshot from McDonald’s promotional video (Link) from 2019, which indicates that they are 33% percent cage-free in the US.
Besides, it is fine if the volume of cage-free eggs doesn’t meet McThai’s current needs. McThai can gradually increase the percentage of cage-free eggs as the products become more available. McDonald’s is already sourcing cage-free eggs for 33% out of its current use in the US. The volume shouldn’t be an issue that is holding McDonald’s back from making this commitment in Thailand. In fact, the commitment is the only way to ensure that McThai will have enough cage-free eggs in the future. A concrete commitment is like a promise to egg producers that there will be demand for cage-free eggs, and thus, drive the producers to shift to the cage-free system, which is better for animals.
We also would like to emphasize that the transition process doesn’t have to be concluded overnight, but by 2025, six years from now. We have no doubts that a multi-million dollar company like McDonald’s has the resources and the capacity to make this shift. What seems to be missing is the will to make this world a better place for animals.
5. It seems like McDonald’s cares about their business at the expense of animal welfare
We had learned from our initial communications with McThai before the campaign launch that the reason why they don’t want to commit to only sourcing cage-free eggs is because they are not ready to pay more than they are paying for caged eggs. This doesn’t sound like a good reason for an international multi-million-dollar company, who claims to have a “zero-tolerance policy on cruelty to any animal within [their] Global Supply Chain”.
It is time McDonald’s lives up to its claim. It is time McDonald’s stops treating Thai consumers and animals with lower standards. It is time McDonald’s shows they care more about animals than their overwhelming profits. We insist that McThai use the same standards they are already using in the US and Latin American countries, and announce the commitment to only source cage-free eggs in Thailand.