[New York Times]
In what animal welfare advocates are describing as a "historic
advance," Burger King, the world's second-largest hamburger chain,
said yesterday that it would begin buying eggs and pork from suppliers
that did not confine their animals in cages and crates.
The company said that it would also favor suppliers of chickens that
use gas, or "controlled-atmospheric stunning," rather than electric
shocks to knock birds unconscious before slaughter. It is considered a
more humane method, though only a handful of slaughterhouses use it.
The goal for the next few months, Burger King said is for 2 percent of
its eggs to be "cage free," and for 10 percent of its pork to come
from farms that allow sows to move around inside pens, rather than
being confined to crates. The company said those percentages would
rise as more farmers shift to these methods and more competitively
priced supplies become available.
While Burger King's initial goals may be modest, food marketing
experts and animal welfare advocates said yesterday that the shift
would put pressure on other restaurant and food companies to adopt
"I think the whole area of social responsibility, social
consciousness, is becoming much more important to the consumer," said
Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Technomic, a food industry
research and consulting firm. "I think that the industry is going to
see that it's an increasing imperative to get on that bandwagon."
Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of
the United States, said Burger King's initiatives put it ahead of its
competitors in terms of animal welfare.
"That's an important trigger for reform throughout the entire
industry," Mr. Pacelle said.
Burger King's announcement is the latest success for animal welfare
advocates, who were once dismissed as fringe groups, but are
increasingly gaining mainstream victories.
Last week, the celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck announced that the meat
and eggs he used would come from animals raised under strict animal
welfare codes. And in January, the world's largest pork processor,
Smithfield Foods, said it would phase out confinement of pigs in metal
crates over the next decade.