Business, Economics and Jobs

More companies follow Burger King's cage-free lead


SUPHANBURI-THAILAND-JANUARY 27: A chicken peers out of its cage at the Sanoh chicken farm January 27, 2006 in Suphanburi, Thailand.


Paula Bronstein

Burger King, the second-largest fast-food chain in America, announced yesterday it will go cage-free by 2017.

It seems they will not be the only company making ethical choices for animals. 

A report this week from the Humane Society of the United States titled, “Crammed Into Cages" notes several chains will be making the cage-free switch. Said the report, "Subway, Wolfgang Puck, and Unilever (Hellmann’s Mayonnaise and other products), have committed to transition to 100 percent cage-free eggs."

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Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, told the Associated Press, "So many tens of thousands of animals will now be in better living conditions. Numerically this is significant because Burger King is such a big purchaser of these products."

According to the AP, 9 percent of Burger King's eggs and 20 percent of its pork are currently from cage-free animals.

Jonathan Fitzpatrick, chief brand and operations officer for Burger King, said in a statement, "We believe this decision will allow us to leverage our purchasing power to ensure the appropriate and proper treatment of animals by our vendors and suppliers."

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The report by the Human Society added that it helped many more companies begin transitioning to cage-free eggs including, Wendy’s, Quiznos, Kraft Foods, Sara Lee, General Mills, ConAgra Foods, Harris Teeter, Safeway, Starbucks, Denny’s, Whataburger, Sonic Drive-In, Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Marriott hotels, Hyatt Hotels, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, and Au Bon Pain.

That's a mouthful of cage-free companies. 

The AP report did note, egg and pork producers have warned that by easing confinement standards for animals, it will likely also raise production costs and also make those who adjust their practices less competitive. 

A 2009 study by Agralytica estimates that cage-free eggs cost 25 percent more to produce than its caged counterpart.

Gene Gregory, president of the United Egg Producers, answered their financial worry saying, "Our attitude is our producers believe in consumer choice, and if that's what their consumers want to buy, they'll produce cage-free eggs for the marketplace provided the customer is willing to pay the additional cost." 

Food industry analyst Phil Lempert also believes people will be willing to pay a bit extra for the good karma telling The Washington Post, “Even if you’re buying a burger, you want to buy it from someone you like and respect. It’s proven that consumers are willing to pay a little bit more for fairness, whether it’s to humans or animals.”

No word yet on if Burger King plans to regulate their beef and dairy products in a similar way.