Yesterday, I broke the news on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that The Humane Society of the United States and Burger King are jointly announcing that the world’s second-largest fast food burger chain will eliminate both battery cages and gestation crates from its U.S. supply chain. According to its new policy, BK will only do business with pork suppliers that have detailed plans to end their use of gestation crates. The company will also switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs for all of its domestic locations within five years—the result of a discussion on laying hen welfare that opened up five years ago between The HSUS and the fast-food giant.
With this announcement explicitly disapproving the extreme confinement of farm animals, Burger King has set a new standard for animal care in the food retail sector.
There was once a time when action on social concerns like animal welfare and sustainability in the food industry was rare. Now, emerging public consciousness about animals, combined with productive collaboration between The HSUS and corporate leaders like Burger King, is beginning to change that dynamic. Animal welfare is becoming an important element in corporate social responsibility.
Just in the last two months, The HSUS has worked with McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Compass Group—the world’s three largest restaurant chains and largest food-service company—to announce important supply chain commitments that benefit animals. Each of these companies has declared that they’ll get gestation crates out of their U.S. supply chains, with Burger King also announcing an end to the battery-cage confinement of hens producing eggs for its American locations.
Some companies are still lagging, however. Recently, The HSUS filed shareholder proposals with top pork producer Seaboard Corporation and restaurant chains Bob Evans, Tim Hortons, and Domino’s over their inaction on the gestation crate issue. It’s up to them now to follow the example of the pacesetters in the fast-food industry and do the right thing for animals and consumers. No more cutting corners when it comes to extreme confinement of animals on factory farms.
With the big three fast-food companies shunning gestation crates, the message is unmistakable to the pig industry: stop circling the wagons to defend an unacceptable production system, and chart a future course without these crates.
BK’s decision on eggs is also a signal to Congress that it should pass H.R. 3798, which would ban the barren battery cage and allow producers to opt for colony cages, cage-free, or free-range production systems. The egg industry wants to begin the transition away from barren battery cages, and it’s better for animals, for the industry, and for consumers if it’s done with a national minimum standard on a definite timeline—not state by state or company by company on different time tracks and with varying rules.
Cross-posted on Pacelle’s blog, A Humane Nation.