Fast food giant McDonald's will introduce free range eggs in all of its outlets by the end of next year - a move that will consume almost a 10th of the country's total supply.
The decision, announced today, has been coming since 2009, when McDonald's restaurants in Christchurch and Dunedin started cracking into the cage-free egg option.
It means McDonald's will buy about 9 per cent of all free range eggs sold in New Zealand annually - some 13 million eggs a year.
McDonald's New Zealand managing director Patrick Wilson said it was a significant decision for the company's 164 restaurants.
Questions about free range eggs were one of the most popular queries sent via the company's website since 2013.
The 18-month rollout had been coordinated to ensure it was sustainable for McDonald's egg suppliers, he said."We realise there's always room to improve, and by moving away from eggs from caged hens we're doing what our customers have asked us to do," Mr Wilson said.
"We purchase a substantial amount of eggs a year ... so in order to keep up with demand, our egg suppliers will be investing significantly in new farms and farming systems."
The decision means family-run Whangarei farm Otaika Valley Free Range Eggs, which currently supplies the Christchurch and Dunedin restaurants, will be stepping up its production.
A second egg supplier, Zeagold Foods in Otago, is also expanding to meet demand.
The Green Party commended the move, saying in a statement that "the next logical step would be for McDonald's to use free-range chicken meat and bacon across its food products".
"To have a major corporation commit to going free-range is fantastic," Green Party animal welfare spokesperson Mojo Mathers said.
"It sends a strong signal that keeping hens in cruel cages is no longer acceptable."