At McDonald’s annual meeting tomorrow in Oak Brook, Illinois, Paul Shapiro, senior director of The Humane Society of the United States’ factory farming campaign, will urge shareholders to approve its resolution asking the fast-food chain to start transitioning toward cage-free egg usage.

Unlike many of its competitors in the United States, McDonald’s only uses eggs from hens confined in battery cages—barren enclosures so tiny, the birds can barely move an inch their entire lives. McDonald’s closest competitor, Burger King, started using cage-free eggs two years ago. Other fast-food chains, including Wendy’s, Quiznos, Denny’s, Hardee’s, and Carl’s Jr., also use cage-free eggs in their U.S. operations.

In contrast to its U.S. policy, McDonald’s only uses cage-free eggs in the United Kingdom and will only use cage-free whole eggs in the European Union by 2010. In the United States, McDonald’s announced last week that it is participating in a multi-year hen welfare study—even though an abundance of scientific research already confirms that battery cage confinement is detrimental to the birds.

“The standard industry practice of confining laying hens in battery cages is an institutionalized cruelty that must be abolished,” wrote Diane Halverson, a member of McDonald’s own U.S. Animal Welfare Council.

On behalf of The HSUS, Shapiro adds, “In the United States, McDonald’s is lagging behind its competition and its own European policies by only using eggs from hens cruelly crammed inside tiny cages. It’s time for the company to realize that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to this type of animal abuse and begin switching to cage-free eggs.”

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