Thursday, March 29, 2007

Change at Burger King

Andrew Martin had an article in yesterday's New York Times about Burger King's decision to begin buying eggs and pork from producers that do not confine their animals. The immediate goal is for 10% of the fast food chain's pork to come from hog farmers who don't use gestation crates (2% of its eggs will come from "cage free" hens). The company expects these percentages to rise over time; in fact, they hope to have 20% of their pork sourced in this manner by the end of 2007. The lack of a greater supply of meat and eggs produced without confinement testifies to how much of the industry is dedicated to an industrial model of food production.

Apparently these changes were made after consultations with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), although the company notes that it was ultimately an internal decision. You can find the HSUS and PETA reactions here and here. Burger King's announcement follows that of Wolfgang Puck a week or so ago, although the former is expected to have much more of an impact on producers' practices. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story involves the contrast between Burger King's current marketing (think of their tv commercials linking manhood and meat consumption, for example) and this animal welfare initiative. As a corporate spokesman noted, it is not likely that the company will trumpet this decision: “I don’t think it’s something that goes to our core business.” I agree: I'd imagine that Burger King's customers generally don't think much about animal welfare as they are chomping into their "Enormous Omelet Sandwich" (above), which contains two slices of cheese, two eggs, three strips of bacon, and a sausage patty.

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