Taco Bell joins fast food peers with cage-free egg pledge

A Taco Bell restaurant in Revere, MA--Courtesy of Anthony92931, Creative Commons CC-BY SA 3.0

Taco Bell is a bit late to the cage-free egg party, but the company is showing up nonetheless. The fast food giant recently announced a plan to only serve cage-free eggs at its more than 6,000 U.S. restaurants, echoing similar pledges from its fast food peers including McDonald's and Panera.

The Irvine, CA-based company will offer only cage-free eggs by the end of 2016, it said in a statement, marking one of the fastest transitions among fast food companies introducing cage-free egg menus. No other company has committed to a cage-free rollout in the same time frame, The Washington Post points out, although several fast food companies including McDonald's are planning to switch within the next 10 years.

"Implementing this change at record pace underscores that we are always listening and responding to our customers, while doing what is right for our business," Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol said in a statement.

Taco Bell is not revealing much information about how it plans to make the lightning-fast switch. The one-year transition is possible thanks to the company's "large yet flexible infrastructure, and years of close collaboration with our partners," Taco Bell's Chief Food Innovation Officer Liz Matthews said in a statement. But the company could face some bumps along the way as it deals with pricing changes.

Still, the move is likely to appease animal welfare groups who have been calling on fast food companies to source their ingredients more humanely. Taco Bell's decision to make its egg supply cage-free will benefit the lives of more than 500,000 hens, according to estimates by the Humane Society of the United States, a feather in the company's cap as it attempts to win over animal-conscious customers and activists.

Taco Bell's announcement follows on the heels of another cage-free egg pledge from a fast food chain. Earlier this month, Panera unveiled a plan to only use cage-free eggs at its restaurants by 2020. The company has already promised to raise chicken without antibiotics, addressing another hot-button issue as the industry faces pushback on animal welfare.

- here's Taco Bell's statement
- read the WaPo story