Panera Bread Shares Animal Welfare Progress

chickensIn late December, Panera Bread shared its progress on reducing antibiotic use and cruel confinement for farm animals in its U.S. supply chain.

The company introduced its food policy in June, and part of that policy is being transparent and making a positive impact on the food system.

Panera owns 1,845 bakery-cafes in 45 states and in Ontario, Canada that operate under the Panera Bread, Saint Louis Bread Co. or Paradise Bakery & Cafe names.

“For years, Panera has been working closely with farmers, ranchers and experts, to learn how we can tangibly improve conditions for the farm animals in our supply chain. We’ve intentionally reduced or eliminated the use of antibiotics and confinement because we believe those are among the most critical animal welfare issues we can impact,” said Blaine Hurst, executive vice president and chief transformation and growth officer for the company.

World Animal Protection (WAP) hailed Panera’s commitment to improving animal welfare. The nonprofit provided Panera with expertise on improving animal welfare standards: “These comprehensive moves by Panera Bread set a strong example for businesses around the world,” Kara Mergl, World Animal Protection’s U.S. manager of corporate engagement, said in a statement. “Panera’s increasing use of more humane animal housing systems shows that kinder farming isn’t just possible, but crucial. We applaud the positive impact Panera’s progress will have on the lives of so many animals.”

Panera’s animal welfare progress

Sow gestation crates are about 2 feet wide, so small that pregnant pigs can only take one step forward or backward. They are commonly used on pig farms in the U.S. “Due to the duration and severity of their confinement, these pigs’ suffering is among the worst of all factory-farmed animals,” the Humane Society of the U.S. stated on its website. A few years ago, Panera started to phase them out from its supply chain. In 2014, 91 percent of its pork supply came from farms that didn’t use sow gestation crates and where pigs didn’t receive any antibiotics.

Plus, the pigs are fed a vegetarian diet. By January 2015, Panera intends for its entire pork supply chain to meet those standards.

Panera made progress in 2014 across its supply chain, including beef cattle, laying hens and poultry:

  • In 2014, 80 percent of the beef served by the company was grass feed, meaning it was sourced from cattle that graze in pasture.
  • Over 300 million hens in North America spend their lives in small battery cages. In 2014, 18 percent of the over 70 million eggs served by Panera came from cage-free laying hens. All hens that supply shell eggs and hard-boiled eggs met the standards for ‘no antibiotics ever’ and vegetarian-only diet.
  • In 2014, 100 percent of the chicken served in sandwiches and salads received no antibiotics.

Panera is not alone in improving animal welfare standards along its supply chain. WAP lists a number of organizations that have made similar commitments. These include the large supermarket chains Kroger and Safeway, which have committed to buying more cage-free eggs and phasing out sow gestation crates. Walmart, Costco and Trader Joe’s only use cage-free eggs for their private labels, and Whole Foods doesn’t sell any eggs from caged hens.

Image credit: Bobcatnorth

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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