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Taco Bell promises 100% cage-free eggs by the end of 2016

Taco Bell is nothing if not ambitious. The fast food pioneer that turned a waffle into a taco, stationed a bouncer outside of its alcohol-serving Chicago location, and now offers a beverage version of Starburst candy, just made a major animal welfare commitment.

By December 2016, the company says it will serve 100% cage-free eggs at its more than 6,000 US locations. Approximately half a million chickens will be impacted by the switch, according to a Nov. 16 announcement.

The announcement follows the example of other major restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, which announced in September it would go cafe-free over the next ten years. Panera Bread, whose animal welfare standards go beyond egg-laying hens to include commitments for pigs, poultry and cattle, has said it will achieve 100% cage-free eggs by 2020. Just ten days ago (on Nov. 6), the Washington Post called YUM Brands “the only major fast food company that refuses to fix how it gets its food.” Taco Bell, a YUM brand, now says that it “expects to be the first national quick service restaurant to completely implement the change.”

Right now, more than 94% of egg-laying hens in the US spend their lives in battery cages with less floor space than a typical sheet of paper per bird (battery cages were banned in Europe in 2012). They don’t even have enough space to spread their wings. While United Egg Producers, a US egg industry trade group, says that this is ample space to “optimize animal welfare” and that it provides a “safe, comfortable environment,” groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) disagree, saying the chickens are “among the most intensively confined animals in agribusiness.”

YUM Brands did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether its other brands, Pizza Hut and KFC, would make any animal welfare-related changes as well.

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