McDonald’s to be recognised for animal welfare from Compassion in World Farming

COMPASSION IN WORLD FARMING is preparing to welcome McDonald’s UK on stage to receive a Good Sow Commendation at their sixth annual Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards to be held on 30 October in Paris and hosted by Sheila Dillon, food journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Food Programme’.


McDonald’s Europe previously received a Good Egg Award in 2008 for its commitment to source only cage-free whole eggs across its entire European operation and this year Compassion will be awarding McDonald’s UK for its move to support the welfare needs of sows in its supply chain. McDonald’s UK recently announced it was switching to 100% RSPCA Freedom Food pork across its entire menu, which means the company meets Compassion’s Good Sow Commendation criteria for breeding pigs.


Joy Clachan from McDonald’s said: “This is just the latest step by McDonald’s to provide our customers with responsibly-sourced food while demonstrating continuous improvement in farm animal welfare across our entire supply chain. It is fantastic that Compassion is awarding us a Good Sow Commendation in recognition of our commitment to improve the welfare of breeding sows.”


Dr Tracey Jones, Director of Food Business for Compassion in World Farming said: “By bringing higher welfare eggs and pork onto the high street at an affordable price, McDonald’s are leading the way, aligning the quality and sourcing of its ingredients with consumers’ changing preferences and expectations. It’s important that large companies such as McDonald’s are seen to take ownership of the farm animal welfare practices used in their supply chain and to actively demonstrate greater transparency through their communications. By doing so, they also have the opportunity to increase brand loyalty along the way. We encourage more food businesses to follow the McDonald’s example and hope that their Good Sow Commendation will help raise the profile of what they are doing.”


As well as introducing higher welfare standards across its supply chain, a key element of McDonald’s UK’s programme for greater transparency and traceability has been the launch of its ‘Quality Scouts’ initiative where independent members of the public are invited to find out exactly what’s in some of the most popular items on the McDonald’s menu.


One member of Compassion’s Food Business team, Hayley Roberts, was invited along to follow the life of a ‘Sausage and Egg McMuffin’ from farm to restaurant counter, and to see for herself the farming practices involved. Such initiatives which provide greater transparency to consumers about their food and where it comes from are welcomed by Compassion.


Hayley was impressed with what she saw. Previous research by McDonald’s and the Farm Animal Initiative (FAI), demonstrated that enriching the hens’ range by planting trees led to fewer incidents of feather pecking, lower stress levels, reduced mortality rates and fewer low quality eggs. The dual benefit of achieving greater economic returns as well as happier animals was behind the decision for McDonald’s to adopt exclusive use of cage-free eggs across the whole of their European menu. Hayley visited ‘The Lakes’ free-range egg farm in Cumbria, north-west England, which is home to 70,000 free roaming hens whose welfare is in line with McDonald’s requirements.


Hayley was then taken to a Nottinghamshire pig farm where the pigs are outdoor reared and then moved to spacious, naturally lit barns after weaning where the piglets are able to express their natural behaviours such as rooting around in the straw.


At the processing plant, the pigs are moved very calmly from a quiet, dimly-lit lairage to a group handling system and gas stunning unit, reducing stress and thus improving meat quality. The abattoir was well managed and the welfare of the pigs was considered at all times.


The pork was then taken to a patty production plant in Lincolnshire run by OSI Food Solutions where Hayley saw the meat minced and made into patties. The pork patties are made of 97% pork and 3% sage seasoning. OSI then freeze the patties and deliver them across the UK to McDonald’s restaurants nationwide. Once in the restaurant, the patties are cooked from frozen and Hayley was able to crack her own free-range egg to cook and place on top, ready to be eaten. With the pattie made from 97% Freedom Food pork and the egg a genuine Grade A free-range egg, the McDonald’s Sausage and Egg McMuffin is a great breakfast option for anyone concerned about farm animal welfare.


The Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards allow Compassion to formerly recognise those organisations that are leading the way through their performance and innovation in farm animal welfare. McDonald’s UK is a prime example with their commitments on free-range eggs and their move to 100% RSPCA Freedom Food pork, and by demonstrating transparency of their supply chain through their Quality Scout initiative.


To be awarded a Good Sow Commendation, the following criteria must be met:


  • No confinement (sow stalls) during the dry period
  • No confinement during lactation (farrowing crates) – with an active monitoring/development programme for lowering pre-wean mortality
  • Provision of adequate manipulable material and bedding throughout life