A&W is giving $100,000 to Farm & Food Care Canada to research welfare-friendly housing.
Several major fast-food chains have recently announced they intend to buy only eggs from hens that are not housed in cages. Most set a target of 1017 to 2020.
Egg Farmers of Canada, the national supply-management agency, has said it intends to eventually have all Canadian hens out of cages.
The company wants to buy its eggs from cage-free farms that protect hen and farmer health, as well as refuse to use antibiotics on its brood, said Susan Senecal, A&W's president and chief operating officer. It plans to do so within the next two years.
But there are not enough free-run or free-range farms in Canada to supply A&W's egg demands, as none meet the company's standards for antibiotic use, she said.
Some research shows free-run housing can expose hens to environmental irritants and more aggressive behaviour from their peers.
"What we're hoping to find here is something that really leads the world in terms of the next advance in hen housing," said Senecal.