McDonald's accused of using battery-hen eggs

TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) accused McDonald's Taiwan of using battery-cage eggs, contravening what was said in the giant fast-food restaurant's 2013 advertising campaign, in which McDonalds said they would be using animal-friendly eggs from Shih An Farm, yesterday.

EAST said that McDonald's Taiwan claimed in an advertising campaign in August 2013 that they use eggs laid by hens living in superior conditions to battery hens, but then secretly changed its egg source to battery-cage eggs from "Shi-an Shop" and "Fu-Ding Food", an affiliated company of Wei Chuan Corp..

Eggs from the two companies are produced from battery hens, with Shi-an Shop acquiring its eggs from three farms located in Chiayi and Tainan, where 770,000 laying hens are being raised, said the Council of Agriculture (COA).

Battery-caged hens are raised in poor conditions - usually five are squeezed into one tiny cage. Without a proper living environment, laying hens are usually in bad health condition and require animal drugs to stay alive and lay eggs.

The European Union's Laying Hens Directive came into force in 2012, banning non-enriched cage systems and requiring the use of enriched cages where each laying hen has at least 750 square centimeters of area; or an alternative system with a stocking density that does not exceed nine laying hens per square meter of usable area, with at least one nest for every seven hens and sufficient area to rest. Taiwan's COA requires at least 750 square centimeters per laying hen as well.

EAST further noted that eggs from one of the suppliers have tested positive for florfenicol residue, a synthetic antibiotic that should not be found in eggs.

According to EAST Chief Chen Yu-min, McDonald's is the world's largest fast-food company, with 33,500 restaurants in over 119 countries worldwide. The company sells dairy products to nearly 70 million consumers; currently, McDonald's UK and the Netherlands have already been adopting the use of eggs from hens living under conditions superior to those of battery hens and McDonald's New Zealand and Australia will stop using battery-cage eggs in 2016 and 2017 respectively; Brazil and the US will also follow in 2022.

In response to EAST's accusation, McDonald's Taiwan stated their suppliers are indeed "Shi-an Shop" and "Fu-Ding Food," though the suppliers test their produce periodically and the company authorizes other institutes to perform drug-residue examinations. McDonald's Taiwan also emphasised that they have not claimed to use the better-quality eggs and that supplies of the better eggs are less than 3 per cent, meaning the market provides insufficient supplies.