Earlier this week, Burger King announced major shifts in its egg and pig products, stating that the company will be sourcing only from cage-free suppliers by 2017 as it becomes the first major fast-food chain to make such a commitment.
Sating animal rights activists, the move means that millions of egg-laying hens will be freed from battery cages that are extremely confining and considered one of the most unethical factory farm practices. The new requirements for Burger King's suppliers would shift the hens into more of an open barn-like structure where they're able to spread wings, perch and nest—natural behaviors for the birds.
Gestation crates, which are used to house pregnant sows, can be so confining that the intelligent creatures cannot even turn around for the four months during pregnancy and nursing. They would no longer be forced into gestation crates during pregnancy, but separated from other pigs during pregnancy as needed.
While the move towards more ethically raised foods will likely come with an added cost, the impact is profound for the 3rd largest fast-food chain in the nation. Already nine percent of eggs and 20 percent of pork served throughout the more than 7,000 locations are cage-free.
The announcement comes on the heels of Burger King's biggest menu change in recent history with an emphasis on healthier fare including salads and fresh fruit smoothies, also efforts to reclaim sales lost to McDonald's (#1) and Wendy's (#2).
Last year, McDonald's announced it would begin sourcing 1 million cage-free eggs per month in the U.S., citing availability as the limiting factor. With retailers like Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Costco already committed to sourcing cage-free eggs, Burger King's move could help propel the industry into a landmark shift. Burger King worked with the Humane Society of the United States on developing the plan that has the potential to drastically alter the state of the egg and pork industries as consumer demands for ethically raised animal products continues to rise.
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