As one of the last companies to announce plans to make changes to their supply chain, Taco Bell has just upped the competition by not only committing to use only cage-free eggs in its 6,000 restaurants across the country, but to ensure implementation by December 2016 – the fastest turnaround so far pledged by any fast food company.

McDonald's and Starbucks are some of the other industry giants who have already made similar announcements to make changes in their supply chain. Many companies have vowed to end their use of eggs laid by chicken kept in battery cages. However, their deadlines making the change are later than Taco Bell, which will be the first company to make the switch.

Although criticized for not making an announcement to switch to cage-free eggs sooner, Taco Bell is now being hailed for having the quickest target date to end their association with what many animal rights activists blast as an inhumane treatment of chickens.

“We are a brand that has our finger on the pulse of not only what appeals to our customers’ tastes but also the issues they care most about... 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,” said CEO of Taco Bell Corp., Brian Niccol.  

Niccol also disclosed in a statement that amidst the criticisms against Taco Bell, they had already been working behind-the-scenes to ensure that they can deliver on their promise to use 100 per cent cage-free eggs by the end of 2016 without any additional costs to consumers.

According to estimates from the Humane Society of the United States, approximately 500,000 will benefit from this major shift in the industry to turn cage-free. Companies will be using eggs from hens that are allowed to roam in a more natural environment, stretch their wings, and engage in more natural behavior which they are deprived of when kept in a tight battery cage.

Industry analysts do point out that cage-free environments for chickens is not as efficient than modern farming practices and therefore costs more. Part of Taco Bell's appeal to consumers is its low prices, and changing to cage-free eggs can be a major compromise to that. However, many are hopeful that with so many fast food giants making the pledge to go cage-free, more producers will be more inclined to make the switch to cage-free egg production as well and drive costs down. 

In addition to pledging to go 100 per cent cage-free, Taco Bell also announced that it will begin delivery of its goal to remove artificial flavors, colors, trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, and palm oil from main menu items at the beginning of next year.

They also want to eliminate additional preservatives from their food items by the end of 2017.

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Photo: Jessica "The Hun" Reader | Flickr 

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