Eating at Burger is about (eventually) to get a lot more humane. The nation’s second largest fast food chain announced it had come to an agreement in cooperation with the Humane Society, on Wednesday. Burger King is the first large-scale fast food operator to switch to eggs from hens not kept in cages, and to only use pork products from pigs also not kept and bred in small cages by 2017. The agreement is a move to satisfy consumer demand for humanely produced food while at the same time increasing sales.
Those eggs that are raised conventionally come from hens confined in “battery cages.” These allow hens the equivalent of your high-school notebook in which to live. The majority of pork comes from sows confined during their four-month pregnancies in narrow crates. Animal rights activists have applauded Burger King for the plan.
The new requirements would call for hens to have room to move about with additional perches and nesting boxes. Sows will also held indoors, but they would not be confined in the cramped crates while pregnant. Respective producers have argued that easing confinement standards for animals raises production costs and lessens their competitive edge.
“So many tens of thousands of animals will now be in better living conditions,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. “Numerically, this is significant because Burger King is such a big purchaser of these products.”
Burger King uses hundreds of millions of eggs and tens of millions of pounds of pork each year. It’s a market so large that, like Wal-Mart, a change in policy can change suppliers and cost structure. Analysts predict that Burger King may see very little increase in cost.
The company made moves to use cage free resources as early as 2007. Nine percent of the company’s eggs and 20 percent of the pork served at its 7,200 restaurants are cage-free.
Other companies have initiated similar policies. Chipotle used a viral marketing campaign during the Grammy Awards outlining the company’s commitment to humane treatment of animals. The commercial netted a lot of positive buzz and other companies were quick to announce new policies.
This year, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Wal-Mart, Costco, Smithfield Farms, And Hormel have all made announcements regarding the humane treatment of animals. Sonic, Subway, Ruby Tuesday, Kraft Food and ConAgra Foods, are all working on incorporating a percentage of cage free eggs into their products.
“This is an issue that just four to five months ago was not on the food industry’s radar,” said Paul Shapiro, the Humane Society’s vice president for farm animal protection. “Now it’s firmly cemented into the mainstream in a way that I think few people would have imagined.”
The US lags far behind the EU. European laws regarding livestock and farm animals are far more strict. Every egg that McDonald’s uses in Europe are from free-range chickens, which are allowed to roam outside.