A&W wants to offer eggs from hens in cage-free housing inside of two years, but doing so requires a quick acceleration in changing farm practices.

In an announcement Thursday, the fast food chain said it would give a $100,000 grant to Farm & Food Care Canada to help develop new housing options for egg-laying hens.

The announcement comes as fast-food outlets such as Tim Hortons and Burger King say they want to adopt cage-free eggs in an effort to address concerns from consumers about sustainable farming practices.

The Egg Farmers of Farmer announced in February that 1,000 Canadian egg farmers were prepared to move away conventional production over the next eight years in an effort to meet demand for cage-free eggs.

However, that transition isn't fast enough for A&W.

It already has made a commitment to serve eggs from hens fed a vegetarian diet, without animal by-products or antibiotics.

Currently in Canada, A&W can find hens that are raised in enriched housing, which provides more space, privacy, and ability for hens to display their natural behaviours.

But these hens raised in cage-free or open barns are still fed antibiotics, which does not meet A&W's commitment to serving eggs from hens raised without the use of antibiotics.

Pushing for innovation

 "We are investing in innovation to accelerate the pace of change because right now there are no viable cage-free egg options that meet our supply standards regarding the use of antibiotics," Susan Senecal, president and chief operating officer at A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. said in a news release.

The donation to Food & Farm Care Canada, a coalition of farmers and associated businesses that works toward more sustainable farming, is a step towards redesigning the housing environment to "meet the holistic needs of animal health and welfare," according to an A&W spokesman.  

The fast-food chain said it wants to foster leadership and innovation in the sector to meet its goal of having cage-free eggs without antibiotics in two years.

More than 90 per cent of Canada's egg supply still comes from battery cages.

Most of the fast-food chains that have committed to cage-free eggs are working on a 10-year timeline to allow egg farmers time to invest in new housing for their hens.