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Week Ending Sept. 4 2000 . Marcia Yablon . U.S. News & World Report, Business & Technology . USA  
Happy hen, happy meal - McDonald's chicks fix  
You deserve a break today. And so do the hens.  

McDonald's is demanding that its egg suppliers improve the living conditions of their chickens. The gesture of goodwill did not come without a few nudges. A herd of animal-rights organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, launched an anti- McDonald's campaign last fall. PETA distributed "unhappy meals" at restaurant playgrounds and outside a McDonald's shareholders' meeting. The kits, which came in boxes similar to the Happy Meals McDonald's sells for children, were covered with pictures of slaughtered animals and contained a bloody, knife-wielding "Son of Ron" doll that resembled the Ronald McDonald clown, as well as toy farm animals with slashed throats. As if that weren't enough, one gruesome image featured a bloody cow's head and the familiar fast-food phrase "Do you want fries with that?"

Wingspan. McDonald's denies that the campaign had any influence on its decision. But chickens working for the Golden Arches won't be caged wingtip to wingtip anymore. The space allotted to each hen will increase from an average of 48 square inches, a bit more than half of this page, to 72 square inches. Suppliers will also be required to stop "forced molting," a process that increases egg production by denying hens food and water for up to two weeks.

"I think our efforts definitely contributed to the decision, and we feel very good about that," says Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vegetarian-campaign coordinator. But he vows the campaign will not end. It may be possible now to eat an Egg McMuffin with a clear conscience. But what about Chicken McNuggets?

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