McDonald’s, one of the biggest names in the quick service restaurant game, made a significant move in the animal welfare space last month. The Australian arm of the global restaurant group launched their new range of chicken wraps and salads, featuring RSPCA Approved chicken for the very first time.
Where it all started
While the RSPCA is best-known for its work caring for and rehoming dogs and cats, what many people might not realise is that the organisation plays an important role in advocating for animal welfare improvements within Australia’s farming industries. We do this collaboratively, with industry, businesses and importantly, farmers. By working together this way, we have the opportunity to improve the lives of the millions of animals that are on farms across the country, today.
One of the ways we work with Australian businesses is by providing advice and guidance on sourcing policies. We are proud to work alongside McDonald’s as they make thoughtfully sourced food more accessible to Australian consumers.
In 2017, McDonald’s made the commitment to source 100% of its shell eggs from cage-free farming systems. Since then, they’ve served up more than 85 million eggs annually, meaning more than 800,000 hens have lived better and freer, being able to move around, flap their wings and lay their eggs in a nest.
Sourcing RSPCA Approved chicken
McDonald’s has been working with the Australian agriculture industry for nearly 50 years and in 2019 alone, purchased over 15.7 million kilograms of locally sourced chicken from Australia’s meat chicken farming industry.
To receive the RSPCA certification, McDonald’s collaborated with its three existing chicken suppliers, Ingham’s, Turosi and Baiada, who committed to participating in regular assessments to ensure their farms meet the RSPCA’s strict higher animal welfare standards.
McDonald’s chicken suppliers source chicken from farms across the country, from small family run farms to larger company-owned farms. With a strong focus on animal welfare, the majority of these farms have been participating in the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme for a number of years.
What’s it like on an RSPCA Approved farm
Meat chickens on RSPCA Approved farms live in an environment that is safe, comfortable and entertaining, and encourages them to move around and be active. Importantly, their environment is suited to their specific needs and allows them to behave in ways they’re naturally motivated to.
To achieve this quality of living, McDonald’s sources from RSPCA Approved farms that house their birds in a higher welfare indoor environment where chickens have:
Dry litter covering the floor which allows birds to dustbathe (flicking dust into their feathers to keep them clean and free from bugs).
Perches throughout which encourages birds to be active and helps them build stronger bones and muscles in their legs and wings.
Bright and shiny disks or chains that birds peck at and play with for entertainment.
Proper lighting that’s bright during the day to encourage activity and has a period of complete darkness at night to allow birds to rest.
Temperature controlled so that birds aren’t cold or too hot.
Lower stocking densities so that birds have more space to move around.
What it means to be certified RSPCA Approved
The certification process to be RSPCA Approved isn’t easy. Farms must meet the RSPCA’s higher animal welfare standards. The RSPCA’s standards are detailed and for meat chickens cover birds from when they arrive at the farm from the hatchery to when they are slaughtered.
To check the standards are being met, an RSPCA Assessor will visit all locations that animals are kept as part of the Scheme. This includes farm visits 2-4 times a year and visits to the abattoir.
For McDonald’s they must also have traceability systems in place to trace product from point of sale right back to the farm.
Today, there are over 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants across Australia, serving more than 1.7 million people each day.
McDonald’s is committed to providing customers with transparent information on how they are working to improve animal health and welfare in their supply chain.
Here, at the RSPCA we are looking forward to continuing our work with McDonald’s and their supply chain to improve handling, housing, health and slaughter practices for animals.
Australians care about the treatment of farm animals and by sourcing chicken from farms participating in the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme, McDonald’s is showing they, like their customers, care too.
At the end of the day, it’s their customers who are the driving force behind these commitments. So thank you, for caring about the welfare of farm animals, for making your views heard and supporting businesses doing good things for animals!