MIAMI — Burger King, the world’s second-largest burger chain, has pledged to do business only with cage-free egg suppliers and gestation crate-free pork suppliers by 2017.
“With this announcement explicitly disapproving the extreme confinement of farm animals, Burger King has set a new standard for animal care in the food retail sector,” Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, wrote on the HSUS blog after breaking the news on MSNBC.
Under Pacelle, HSUS has cultivated a three-pronged strategy that has begun forcing changes in how farm animals are housed in the U.S.
Perhaps most notably for food retailers, undercover HSUS workers at slaughterhouses and chicken farms have intermittently produced and released Internet videos aimed toward stoking consumer outrage. In 2008, video shot at a Hallmark/Westland meat packing plant in Chino, Calif., led to a congressional hearing and the largest beef recall in U.S. history at the time. Earlier this month, the group released another video shot at Krieder Farms, a major egg facility in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, the organization’s legislative arm has used ballot initiative systems in states including Florida, Arizona and California to pass outright bans on specific agricultural practices, such as the use of battery cages for laying hens, or gestation crates for sows.
And, third, using methods including shareholder votes and executive-level meetings, the group has worked with companies including Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and others, urging them to push their suppliers to change their practices. Ultimately, they reward companies that pledge to adopt new standards with positive publicity.
Jonathan Fitzpatrick, chief brand and operations officer for Burger King, told the Associated Press that the decision was part of the company’s social responsibility policy, and that it had been steadily increasing the use of cage-free eggs and gestation crate-free pork as suppliers had become better able to meet demand.