American RadioWorksDocumentariesAmericaMcDonald's New Farm
Home  |   Cracking Down on Egg Suppliers  |   Kill Them With Kindness

PART I     Cracking Down on Egg Suppliers    Page  1  2  3  4  5  6

Swift Learning Curve

Animal rights groups have said for decades that methods like these are cruel. Farmers and industry executives have said for decades that the activists are kooks. So the agriculture industry was stunned recently when McDonald's delivered its verdict: The company declared that every farm that supplies its eggs must raise the hens more humanely. They gave farmers less than 18 months to comply. In fact, McDonald's told farmers they had to change by January 1, 2002, or the company wouldn't buy their eggs anymore—and McDonald's buys more eggs than any other company in America. The egg industry was furious. Industry leaders told McDonald's, "You can't make farmers change that fast," but McDonald's wouldn't budge. The brothers who run this farm don't want to talk about the conflict. They will say that they're doing what McDonald's wants and it's going to cost money.

Herb Herbruck from Herbruck Egg Sales in Michigan says that complying with McDonald's new animal welfare policies is an ongoing effort to get better, and that it's not cheap. Photo: Daniel Zwerdling

"Well, any change is readjusting our entire system to adapt to it and understand it," Herbruck explains. "To take advantage of a change, if you can. And to deal with any negatives there are and restrict them. We're still learning. We're in a learning curve. This has been an ongoing effort to get better."

So can you give us a rough figure? How much have you had to spend so far to meet these guidelines?

"The project is still ongoing," says Herbruck. "We don't have any idea."

So far?

"A lot. Millions."

A McDonald's executive is visiting the farm on this particular morning, and he won't say how much the changes are costing his company either:

"That's proprietary, that's competitive information, so we don't release that information."

Bob Langert helped shape McDonald's animal welfare policies and put them into effect.

"Costs have not been a driving factor with this whole initiative," he says. "So I mean in terms of a framework, this all starts with implementing the best animal welfare practices, doing the right thing and cost is a part of the whole process, a part we're still trying to figure out. We'll figure this out in collaboration with our suppliers."

Next: Why the Change?

©2018 American Public Media