In the social-media-fuelled world of ethical eating, feelings often trump facts, and buzzy terms like ‘free-range’ may not mean what you think. Ann Hui reports
Last September, the world’s biggest burger chain announced that it wants the 120 million eggs used each year in Egg McMuffins and other breakfast items in Canada to come exclusively from hens not confined to a cage.
The news came as a surprise not only to competitors of McDonald’s but to some who work for the company, too. It also had a cascading effect. In the months since, almost every major fast-food chain in North America has made a similar pledge to go cage-free.
In October, it was Starbucks. In December, Subway. In January, Wendy’s. Even Tim Hortons followed suit: Back in 2012, it had vowed to source more eggs from hens in “furnished cages,” which are bigger and nicer than the infamous “battery” type used for 90 per cent of the 40 million boxes of eggs produced in Canada every year. But then Tims changed owners – and its mind. In February, its parent company, which also owns Burger King, announced that both would go entirely cage-free.
What was behind the fight for feathered freedom? The short answer: public opinion and pressure. With the power of social media and the Internet, activists and animal-rights groups have gained unprecedented influence in shaping peoples’ perceptions and decisions of what to eat. And the food industry has taken notice.
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