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Why McDonald's Move to 100% Freedom Food Pork Is a Big Deal for Animal Welfare

23/04/2013 15:28 BST | Updated 22/06/2013 10:12 BST

Last week, McDonald's announced it was switching its pork to 100% Freedom Food across its entire UK menu. By the end of April, you will be able to pop into any UK McDonald's and tuck into a sausage and egg McMuffin or a bagel that contains only pork from farms inspected to RSPCA welfare standards.

McDonald's might be large, and some will trumpet that 'they can afford it' - but this is no mean feat for a business that has 1,200 restaurants and serves 3 million customers every day in the UK. In fact, it shows just what can be done if the will is there. By making this move, McDonald's has shown that it is possible to bring higher-welfare choices to the consumer on the high street, at an affordable price.

So, what does this mean for welfare? In the last three years, we have seen the number of pigs reared to RSPCA welfare standards rise by over 50% - today, almost a million more pigs are reared under the Freedom Food scheme compared to 2009. But even with about a third of British pigs being reared to RSPCA standards, there are still far too many pigs kept in conditions that don't meet their needs. Here, in Britain, some pigs still have to live on fully slatted floors with no bedding and no appropriate material such as straw to root about in. And sows can be kept confined in a farrowing crate for about a month until their piglets are weaned.

Hopefully, this move by McDonald's is just the start of a movement towards more higher-welfare food on the high street and will inspire other restaurants and retailers to take a good look at their sourcing policy and switch to higher welfare too. We consumers also have a part to play - if everyone who enjoys a sausage roll or a bacon sandwich stops to think - and ask - about the welfare behind the product, then we really could make a difference to the lives of many more farm animals.

This is a great step for farm animal welfare, and McDonald's should be applauded for it. Let's hope others follow their lead.

If you are interested in finding out more about pig welfare, take a look at the pig welfare pages on the RSPCA website and find more information on www.freedomfood.co.uk/thinkpig