BUSINESS
12/15/2015 01:32 pm ET

These 15 Restaurant Chains Are Switching To Cage-Free Eggs

[Mr. Burns voice] Eggcellent.

Call them birds of a feather. One by one, the country's major restaurant chains are promising to use only cage-free eggs. 

Just this year, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, Taco Bell and others have made this eggsemplary commitment, responding to consumer demand for farm animals to be treated better.

Cage-free isn't the same as, say, free-range. It just means that the hens have access to open indoor space and aren't kept in cages, though they do not necessarily get to spend time outdoors. 

So, the cage-free life isn't ideal -- but it's certainly better than some of the alternatives. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals paints a grim portrait of what life is like for most of this country's nearly 300 million egg-laying hens.

In many places, as many as 10 birds are crammed into a single wire cage with barely enough room to move. The hens often have their beaks cut down to keep them from pecking each other to death.

Open Philanthropy's Lewis Bollard estimates that 2015's announcements alone will spell a better life for about 30 million hens.

Eventually.

Most of these changes will take a while to arrive. The timelines vary from company to company, but five to 10 years is a common estimate.

Still, animal advocates view this as progress -- no matter how slow -- toward the demise, someday, of battery hen farming, one of the industry's cruelest practices.

"Addressing animal welfare issues has gone from an option to a necessity for any corporation in the food industry," Josh Balk, senior director of food policy at the Humane Society of the United States, told The Huffington Post. 

Here are 15 restaurant chains that have already committed to going entirely cage-free:

  • Taco Bell, by 2016
    Taco Bell wants to be the fastest fast food around -- at least when it comes to switching over to cage-free eggs. The company
    shutterstock
    Taco Bell wants to be the fastest fast food around -- at least when it comes to switching over to cage-free eggs. The company has promised to make that switch at each of its 6,000 U.S. locations by the end of 2016.
  • Burger King, by 2017
    Back in 2012, well ahead of its competitors, <a href="http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/food/story/2012-04-25/b
  • McDonald's, by 2025
    In September, McDonald's announced plans&nbsp;to use only cage-free eggs in its nearly 16,000 U.S. and Canadian restaurants.
    shutterstock
    In September, McDonald's announced plans to use only cage-free eggs in its nearly 16,000 U.S. and Canadian restaurants. That adds up to about 2.12 billion eggs a year -- although the change is expected to take a decade.
  • Noodles & Company -- right now!
    Noodles &amp; Company announced two years ago that <a href="http://www.perishablenews.com/index.php?article=0033619" target="
    Noodles & Company announced two years ago that it had completed the transition to cage-free eggs.
  • Dunkin' Donuts, by 2025
    America's going to run on cage-free eggs in a decade. In December, Dunkin' Donuts pledged to use <a href="http://www.huffingt
    shutterstock
    America's going to run on cage-free eggs in a decade. In December, Dunkin' Donuts pledged to use only cage-free eggs by 2025. It's a move the company estimates will improve life for some 1.4 million egg-laying hens per year.
  • Starbucks, by 2020
    Starbucks <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/starbucks-cage-free-eggs_56127477e4b0768127027e4f" target="_blank">sai
    Matthew Horwood / Alamy
    Starbucks said in October that it's "committed to working with our suppliers toward our goal to be 100 percent cage-free by 2020."
  • Einstein Bros. Bagels, by 2020
    Einstein Bros. Bagels says it will be using only cage-free eggs in the company's more than 600 stores <a href="http://www.dig
    Einstein Bros. Bagels says it will be using only cage-free eggs in the company's more than 600 stores by 2020.
  • Panera Bread, by 2020
    In November, Panera promised to use only cage-free eggs <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/panera-animal-welfare_56
    Scott Olson/Getty Images
    In November, Panera promised to use only cage-free eggs by 2020. About one-fifth of the company's laying hens are cage-free now. Panera says it uses about 120 million eggs per year.
  • Jack in the Box, by 2025
    Per an announcement in November, Jack in the Box is aiming to use mostly cage-free eggs by 2020, and <a href="http://www.eate
    Per an announcement in November, Jack in the Box is aiming to use mostly cage-free eggs by 2020, and only cage-free eggs by 2025.
  • TGI Fridays, by 2025
    Thank goodness <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kelloggs-cage-free-eggs_56327c1fe4b00aa54a4d7536" target="_blank"
    shutterstock
  • The Cheesecake Factory, by... TBD
    The Cheesecake Factory has promised to eliminate its&nbsp;use of battery-farmed eggs at some point in the future. <a href="ht
    The Cheesecake Factory has promised to eliminate its use of battery-farmed eggs at some point in the future. A timeline is expected to be announced in 2016.

    The company has also said it will end its use of pig gestation crates, another brutal animal confinement practice, by 2020.
  • Peet's Coffee & Tea, by 2020
    Peet's Coffee &amp; Tea announced in December that it's aiming to use only cage-free eggs in company-owned restaurants <a hre
    Peet's Coffee & Tea announced in December that it's aiming to use only cage-free eggs in company-owned restaurants by 2020.
  • Caribou Coffee, by 2020
    By 2020, U.S.-based Caribou Coffee will serve only cage-free eggs, according to <a href="http://www.streetinsider.com/Press+R
    By 2020, U.S.-based Caribou Coffee will serve only cage-free eggs, according to the company's December announcement.
  • Au Bon Pain, by 2017
    Au Bon Pain has <a href="http://www.fastcasual.com/news/au-bon-pain-phasing-out-pork-suppliers-using-gestational-crates/" tar
    Au Bon Pain has committed to using only cage-free eggs by 2017. The company has set the same deadline for phasing out pig gestation crates.
  • Qdoba, by 2025
    Qdoba is owned by Jack in the Box, and like its parent company, it is <a href="http://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2015/11/ja
    Qdoba is owned by Jack in the Box, and like its parent company, it is due to phase out non-cage-free eggs by 2025.
  • Nestlé, by 2020
    By 2020, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nestle-cage-free_567987d8e4b0b958f6581ed1">Nestl&eacute;&nbsp;will use
    FABRICE COFFRINI via Getty Images
    By 2020, Nestlé will use cage-free farms for its items sold in the U.S. Nestlé is by far the biggest company to pledge to go cage-free since McDonald's.
  • Denny's, by 2026
    Denny's new commitment sets 2026 as a deadline to complete its transition. Denny's is the first major family dining restauran
    Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
    Denny's new commitment sets 2026 as a deadline to complete its transition. Denny's is the first major family dining restaurant to commit to completely eliminate cages. 
  • Subway, by 2025
    The Subway <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/subway-cage-free-eggs_56815de0e4b014efe0d8b576">food chain</a>&nbsp;g
    Joe Raedle via Getty Images
    The Subway food chain gave itself a generous 10-year deadline to end the use of eggs laid by caged hens.
  • Wendy's, by 2020
    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wendys-cage-free_568a854ce4b0b958f65c1ca1">Wendy's</a> plans to start using only
    Lester Cohen via Getty Images
    Wendy's plans to start using only cage-free eggs in the United States and Canada by 2020.
  • Mondelēz International, by 2020
    Mondelēz International, which owns&nbsp;snack brands including Oreo, Chips Ahoy! and Triscuit, has set&nbsp;deadlines for com
    Bloomberg via Getty Images
    Mondelēz International, which owns snack brands including Oreo, Chips Ahoy! and Triscuit, has set deadlines for completely ridding battery cages from its supply chain: by 2020 in the U.S. and Canada, and by 2025 in European countries where cages are not already banned.
  • Mars, Inc., by 2020
    Mars, Inc. -- the company behind&nbsp;M&amp;Ms, Snickers, Skittles, and a host of other household&nbsp;candy brands -- has co
    Bloomberg via Getty Images
    Mars, Inc. -- the company behind M&Ms, Snickers, Skittles, and a host of other household candy brands -- has committed to eliminating caged eggs from its U.S., Canadian, and Australian supply chains by 2020. The company has already successfully eliminated cages from its European supply chain.
  • Trader Joe's, by 2025
    Trader Joe's has&nbsp;set a&nbsp;goal to source all of their eggs sold nationwide from&nbsp;cage-free suppliers by 2025 -- wi
    Geri Lavrov via Getty Images
    Trader Joe's has set a goal to source all of their eggs sold nationwide from cage-free suppliers by 2025 -- with an interim goal to sell only cage-free eggs in western states (CA, OR, WA, AZ, NM, and CO) by 2020.
  • PepsiCo, by 2020
    PepsiCo has announced it will source 100 percent cage-free eggs in the U.S. by 2020, and will expand to source 100 percent ca
    Mike Segar / Reuters
    PepsiCo has announced it will source 100 percent cage-free eggs in the U.S. by 2020, and will expand to source 100 percent cage-free eggs globally by 2025.
  • Walmart, by 2025.
    Walmart announced its&nbsp;commitment to switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2025.
    Kathryn Scott Osler via Getty Images
    Walmart announced its commitment to switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2025.

Get in touch with HuffPost's animal welfare editor at arin.greenwood@huffingtonpost.com.

Also on HuffPost:

PHOTO GALLERY
Celebrity Vegetarians
CONVERSATIONS