McDonald’s has a bold vision for improving animal welfare, but it won’t be going alone on the journey.
Ray Kroc founded McDonald’s based on the idea that McDonald’s corporation, suppliers and franchisees would collaborate to make McDonald’s the number one restaurant company in the world. McDonald’s is shifting its focus from “bigger” to being “better” and one of the key focus areas is on animal health and welfare.
While much has changed since Kroc founded McDonald’s, what has stayed the same is a commitment to maintain his collaborative spirit in meeting “big hairy audacious goals.” This time it is collaborating with leading academics, NGOs, and suppliers to set significantly higher standards for chicken health and welfare.
McDonald’s first began collaborating to improve animal welfare standards in the early 1990s when the company established a relationship with renowned animal welfare expert Temple Grandin, who was a founding member of its animal welfare council, which developed animal welfare audit standards.
McDonald’s has also collaborated to tackle fish sustainability by working with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and its existing suppliers to raise the bar for sustainable fishing practices – resulting in 100% of the whitefish for the Filet-O-Fish being sourced from sustainably managed fisheries. They have achieved MSC certification in North America, Europe and Brazil.
Keeping With Tradition: Collaborating On Chicken Health And Welfare
Bruce Feinberg, a senior director at McDonald’s, responsible for global quality systems for chicken, beef, pork, fish and dairy products, is the most recent leader taking the helm to design McDonald’s animal health and welfare efforts. But he is not working alone.
Feinberg is keeping with tradition as the company focuses its latest efforts on upping the game in chicken health and welfare. This time McDonald’s is engaging a global, multi-stakeholder advisory council focused on chicken sustainability, with participation from academics and scientists, suppliers and industry experts, animal welfare and environmental advocates to support their continued journey on chicken sustainability, inclusive of health and welfare.
Jeremy Graves, Cargill’s vice-president for global product line lead poultry, commended McDonald’s “commitment to continue evolving their poultry welfare standards. We value McDonald’s collaborative approach because it enables us to tap into our experience in advancing animal welfare standards,” adding: “Cargill has always believed the humane treatment and respectful handling of animals within our care is critical to our business success, so we’re proud to be working with McDonald’s to raise the bar.”
Together, the chicken sustainability advisory council will further develop what may be the most comprehensive approach to improving chicken health and welfare, based on an eight-step program. McDonald’s is committing to having the standards fully implemented on or before 2024 in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and the US. The company has also said it will complete a feasibility study by the end of 2018 to determine what additional markets might be included at a later date.
McDonald’s Eight-Step Chicken Welfare Plan
The eight-step chicken health and welfare plan is based on creating and objectively measuring chicken welfare from farm to fork. It begins with improved farm-level operations and extends through the supply chain.
1. Improved Farm-Level Welfare Outcomes: Source chickens for the McDonald’s system that are raised with improved welfare outcomes. The plan will set targets, measure performance and report on key farm-level welfare outcomes across our largest markets.
2. Innovative On-Farm Animal Health and Welfare Monitoring Technologies: Partner with technology companies, producers, and suppliers to develop on-farm monitoring systems to automate the gathering of key animal health and welfare indicators, including behavioral measures. Once established, these technologies will highlight potential areas for improvement in real time and will be among the first of their kind available at a commercial scale.
3. Natural Behavior:Require chickens to be raised in housing environments that promote natural behaviors such as pecking, perching and dust-bathing. These behaviors are encouraged through enrichments, such as the provision of perches and pecking objects, access to floor litter 100 percent of the time, and providing a minimum of 20 lux light intensity during photoperiods, with a minimum of six hours of darkness (four hours to be continuous) during a 24-hour time period, reflecting scientific evidence from poultry experts.
4. Commercial Trials on Production Inputs: Conduct commercial trials across select markets in partnership with our largest global chicken suppliers to study the effect that various production parameters have on key welfare outcomes within large-scale, commercial conditions. These trials will measure the effects of inputs such as lighting, stocking density (space allowance), and genetics. This will enable McDonald’s and its supplier to identify best practices that support improved farm welfare outcomes in specific climates across the globe.
5. Stunning: Expand the sourcing of chickens that are stunned using Controlled Atmospheric Stunning (CAS), a method that is approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). CAS is already currently being practiced by many approved suppliers for McDonald’s restaurants in Europe and Australia.
6. Accountability: Establish third party audits to ensure supplier’s farms are in compliance with McDonald’s new and more comprehensive chicken welfare standards.
7. Feasibility Study:Complete an assessment by the end of 2018 to measure the feasibility of extending these commitments to the remaining global markets where McDonald’s operates.
8. McDonald’s Advisory Council for Chicken Sustainability: Establish a global, multi-stakeholder Advisory Council focused on chicken sustainability, with participation from academics and scientists, suppliers and industry experts, animal welfare and environmental advocates to support our continued journey on chicken sustainability, inclusive of health and welfare.
Dr. Dan Thomson, Jones Professor of Production Medicine at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is a veterinarian and leading authority on animal welfare. Dr. Thomson likes what he is seeing. “McDonalds is putting on their boots to work with the producers, packers and veterinarians to improve the health and well-being of the food animals in their supply chain. This plan will lead to improved bird health, better informed animal caregivers and a more engaged supply chain communicating together for continually improving the health and welfare of our animals.”
For Cargill and Tyson, McDonald’s 8 Step Chicken Welfare Plan builds on work they are already doing to improve poultry health and welfare – such the animal well-being initiative Tyson launched earlier this year. Karen Christensen, Senior Director – Animal Well-Being, Tyson Foods is also a fan of the collaborative approach to involve Tyson. “We’re committed to continuous improvement and we are already addressing aspects of McDonald’s poultry plan,” stated Christensen.
Supply chain expert Dr. Karl Manrodt is not surprised by McDonald’s latest move in the restaurant giant’s quest to be better. Manrodt, co-author of the book Vested: How P&G, McDonald’s and Microsoft are Redefining Winning in Business Relationships, studied the McDonald’s collaborative approach as part of his research on highly strategic supplier relationships.
He notes: “McDonald’s secret sauce to supply chain success has always been their commitment to collaboration under a system first mindset. And they know their goals are best achieved by working in close collaboration with existing suppliers to make investments in processes and practices that create sustainable changes. In the past McDonald’s was about being bigger. Now McDonald’s and their suppliers are investing to be better.”
And those investments will pay off when it comes to the future of animal welfare.
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