McDonald’s has scored an animal welfare first, and been named the winner of Compassion in World Farming’s Best Marketing Award in this year’s Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards, which recognize the commitment of food businesses to improve animal welfare standards.

The company’s U.K. operations have, in fact, been recognized for two initiatives which, according to Connor McVeigh, supply chain director at McDonald’s U.K., “help to align the company’s sourcing stories closely to its advertising.”

The Best Marketing Award was opened to foodservice companies for the first time this year, and the recognition allows McDonald’s to put another trophy on its shelf. It was lauded late last year for bringing about a “seismic” change in the U.S. by deciding that all its eggs were to come to come from cage-free birds.

Business case for welfare

Ethical branding and the increased product value associated with higher welfare standards can be good for business, particularly when a company needs to differentiate from the competition, and McDonald’s certainly operates in a crowded market.

To maximize those benefits, however, companies need to make the public aware of what they are doing so consumers know they are behaving ethically. And this is exactly where McDonald’s has been recognized --  for its television advertising around tree cover for laying hens and its Good to Know campaign.

The company’s tree advertising campaign drew on peer-reviewed research that McDonald’s helped to fund showing how increased tree cover where hens roam resulted not only in more hens roaming, but also in lower mortality, reduced feather pecking and better quality eggs.

Good to Know

Its Good to Know campaign resulted in massive consumer reach running across numerous marketing channels for maximum impact, including radio, social media, print, tray liners and McDonald’s website hub promoting free-range eggs and other higher welfare ingredients in their food.

According to McVeigh, as myths around food quality continue to circulate, the integrated marketing campaign helped to change perception.

McDonald’s is among a growing number of companies responding to consumer demand for quality food products and more ethical food production. Welfare is an area of potential added value for those businesses operating in the food sector as higher welfare standards are seen as contributing to quality.

It was not only McDonald’s U.K. operations that were recognized in this year’s Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards. The company’s Australian and New Zealand operations received Good Egg Awards, which celebrate companies that use or have committed to use only cage-free eggs or egg products in their supply chain.

Operating to higher welfare standards can lead to increased levels of productivity and improve food safety. Higher welfare can also allow producers to tap into a growing market, and make a business the business of choice. And it’s worth remembering that, not only are a growing number of retailers and consumers favoring higher welfare standards, ever more are insisting on it.