Cages are Opening, Crates are Disappearing

cage.jpgBoy, things are really happening in animal agriculture. Cages are opening, crates are disappearing, and businesses are considering the welfare of chickens in their supply chain. If you don’t follow the details of animal-related business practices, I’ll fill you in; this is BIG news.
With a major announcement in the New York Times and Associated Press, Burger King (the only fast food joint to offer a veggie burger at every U.S. restaurant) has said it will give priority to suppliers that do not confine laying hens in cages and hogs in crates. Not stopping there, Burger King will also favor suppliers that use controlled atmosphere stunning (“CAS”) to render broiler chickens unconscious prior to slaughter. Chickens and turkeys are not included under the U.S. Humane Slaughter Act even though at least 95% of U.S. slaughtered animals are poultry. Current poultry slaughter methods include live shackling of chickens upside down by their feet prior to their heads and upper bodies being moved through an electrical bath to immobilize them and paralyze their muscles so they can easily be de-feathered before their necks are cut. Dr. Temple Grandin, a well-known farmed animal expert describes CAS as a more much humane option if done correctly, since chickens will be unconscious prior to being hung upside down by their feet and de-feathered.

These changes are considered historic advances by animal welfare advocates since they simultaneously address multiple areas of animal agriculture considered least humane for egg-laying hens, breeding sows for pork, and broiler chickens. Burger King has provided targets and initial timelines, stating that they want to make improvements prior to customer concerns being raised. They said they worked with both PETA and the Humane Society of the United States and credit their own Animal Advisory Board for developing the improvements, including Dr. Temple Grandin (also on McDonald’s Animal Welfare Council). Burger King has said they will not openly market these improvements and I cannot find any mention on their website.
McDonalds did a study on CAS in June 2005 and concluded that CAS has potential but it was premature to require their U.S. suppliers to adopt an emerging technology. McDonalds has European suppliers that use CAS and stated that they would reevaluate the method again at the end of 2006. Also, as reported in their European Responsibility Report, 60% of their eggs in Europe are from “free range farms.” In the past when McDonalds led the way in farmed animal welfare improvements Burger King and Wendy’s stepped up to the plate and required the same improvements. Will Burger King’s improvements become industry-wide or a point of differentiation?

With an MBA in Sustainable Management, Janice Neitzel is a principal of Sustainable Solutions Group facilitating sustainability strategy and innovative supply chain solutions while blogging on environmental, social, and animal-related business practices.(

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