Popeyes reaped huge financial and viral success with last summer’s rollout of its popular chicken sandwich, which in turn has inspired countless memes and, well, several bizarre episodes of violence. Critics have pointed out the results of the sandwich’s wild popularity were often brutal for both Popeyes employees and for what they were cooking, frying and serving — all those chickens.
Meanwhile Popeyes' competitors in the fast-food space, including Qdoba, Jack in the Box and Chipotle have adopted new animal welfare policies over the past three years in response to the increased consumer demand for humanely-raised food.
Now, the Miami-based company, with the backing of its owner, Restaurant Brands International, has become the first U.S. chicken restaurant chain to adopt the Better Chicken Commitment (BCC). Popeyes says it will deploy these guidelines no later than 2024. The company joins over 200 brands, including Starbucks and Subway, which have signed similar pledges.
Companies that follow the BCC’s guidelines have to adopt these four changes, as well as agree to third-party auditing:
“Every year billions of chickens suffer in our food system,” said Leah Garcés, president of Mercy For Animals, in an emailed statement to TriplePundit. “We commend Popeyes for taking a significant step toward reducing this suffering with their new policy. It also makes clear that if the king of the chicken sandwich can commit to treating chickens better, there’s no excuse for any of their competitors, such as McDonald’s, KFC and Chick-Fil-A, not to follow suit.”
It's been said the road to success and failure are almost exactly to same — and yes, the chicken sandwich has been a double-edged sword for Popeyes. For all the buzz the chain received last summer and into the fall, there were more than a few pundits who described that chapter of chicken sandwich mania as “nihilism,” sarcastically described as “here to save America” and having its own “dark truth.”
Not all animal welfare activists will be satisfied with Popeyes’ latest move, but perhaps kinder treatment of chickens will generate kinder headlines for Popeyes once these new guidelines become the norm.
Image credit: Mai Moeslund/Unsplash
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media. His previous work can be found at The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.