Starbucks recently updated its animal welfare standards. They include phasing out sow gestation crates and cages for chickens, eliminating the use of artificial growth hormones, and eliminating the use of fast growing practices for poultry. The standards will aso address concerns related to dehorning, tail docking, and castration, and supporting the responsible use of antibiotics. The updated standards are a continuation of the buying preference in North America the company established in 2009 to use best industry practices for dairy, egg and meat production.
Starbucks stated on its website that its priority is “ensure we offer food made with ingredients such as cage-free eggs, gestation crate-free pork, and poultry processed through more humane systems such as CAK [controlled atmosphere killing].” The company has yet to create timeframes but is working to create them. Despite the lack of timeframes for each issue, the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) said in a statement that “this may be the most comprehensive animal welfare policy of any national restaurant chain, because this announcement includes both shell and liquid eggs (which are used for its pastries, which it sells in such volume).”
Starbucks updated standards come just in time. Several laws concerning egg-laying hens will go into effect in California on January 1, 2015. In 2008, California voters passed the ballot measure Proposition 2 that requires egg-laying hens to be able to stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their wings. In 2010, California lawmakers passed legislation that requires shell eggs sold in California comply with Proposition 2. In other words, all shell eggs sold in the golden state must come from cage-free hens.
The cruelty of confinement and phasing it out of supply chains
Most egg-laying hens in the U.S. are kept in battery cages that give them, on average, 67 square inches of space. That is less than one sheet of letter-sized paper. The hens are not able to spread their wings in such a small space. Being in such a confined place means that caged hens can’t engage in natural behaviors like nesting, perching and dustbathing. Sow gestation crates are just as small and cruel as battery cages. The majority of breeding pigs in the U.S. are housed in gestation crates that are about two feet wide. They are so small that the pigs can’t turn around or take more than one step.
Many companies over the last few years have committed to eliminating battery cages and sow gestation crates from their supply chains. Fast food chains like McDonald’s, Arby’s, and Burger King have committed to phasing out gestation crates. So have supermarket chains like Kroger’s and Safeway. It’s a good thing for both the animals and the bottom line of the companies shifting away from cruel confinement systems. The fact remains that consumers want humanely produced food. The 2014 Cone Communications Food Issues Trend Tracker found that 69 percent respondents said they prioritize animal welfare when buying meat. A recent poll by HSUS of Californians found that most support Proposition 2.
Image credit: Compassion in World Farming