Fast-food giant Burger King has announced its pledge to phase out sow stalls, as well as battery cages for hens, from its suppliers by 2017.
Burger King said it would only source pork from suppliers that can demonstrate documented plans to end their use of gestation crates for pregnant sows, a move supported by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
The company is the third in the American fast-food sector to make the commitment for sow welfare - after McDonald’s in February and Wendy’s in March - and the first to phase out battery cages.
“With the big three fast-food companies shunning gestation crates, the message is unmistakable to the pig industry: stop circling the wagons to defend an unacceptable production system, and chart a future course without these crates,” said HSUS.
Burger King chief brand and operations officer added: “For more than a decade, Burger King has demonstrated a commitment to animal welfare and, through our BK Positive Steps corporate responsibility program, we continue to leverage our purchasing power to ensure the appropriate and proper treatment of animals by our vendors and suppliers. We are proud to announce these new, industry-leading commitments that support meaningful standards of humane treatment in our US supply chain.”
Since the beginning of 2012, major US food companies, including Hormel and Smithfield, have announced their intention to make the transition towards group pens for sows, a voluntary move modelled on the sow stall ban due to be implemented in the EU in January 2013.
The Australian pork industry is also heading in that direction, aiming to phase out gestation crates by 2015.
In 2011, Burger King received the HSUS’ 'Corporate Progress Award' for its animal welfare practices, and works with the organisation, as well as other industry associations, suppliers and government representatives to make informed decisions about its standards.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS, said: “Burger King has demonstrated when it comes to America’s largest fast food chains, it continues to set the standard. These changes (...) will improve life for countless farm animals and encourage other companies to abide by animal welfare principles up and down their supply chain.”