In an announcement that pleased many animal rights activists, The Burger King Corporation said the company will increase buying from suppliers who take animal welfare into more serious consideration. Two percent of the eggs purchased by Burger King currently come from cage-free hens. The company plans to increase this to five percent by the end of the year. Ten percent of the pork purchased by Burger King now comes from suppliers who do not confine pigs to gestation crates, and that number is expected to increase to twenty percent.
Burger King also has made decisions regarding purchasing more from producers who use humane methods -such as the use of gasses to put them to sleep– to slaughter chickens. The common, inhumane, method of slaughter is to hang the chickens upside down and then electrocute or scald them before slicing their throats.
The recent decision by Burger King has been long in the works. As early as 2001, the Burger King Corporation petitioned the USDA to enforce the Federal Humane Slaughter Act. The Humane Slaughter Act requires that animals be quickly and completely made unconscious before being moved down the line to be bled, skinned, cut, or any other step of the rendering process. “The Federal Humane Slaughter Act, 7 U.S.C. 1901-1906 (“HSA”), requires that animals at slaughterhouses be both humanely handled and killed. The most important provision of the HSA requires that animals “be rendered insensible to pain by a single blow that is rapid and effective before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut.”
Burger King expressed concern that the law was not being enforced. They decided that audits would be required of all slaughterhouses that sold meat to the company, and that these audits would be “…completed no later than June 30, 2002.” From these audits, Burger King planned to determine which suppliers were suitable based on quality and care regarding handling the animals, and food safety measures regarding the meat.
In 2001 Burger King also chose to implement and follow guidelines concerning the cage space of laying hens. They chose to slightly exceed the United Egg Producer’s guidelines for floor space in hen cages. The UEP required 72 square inches. Burger King mandated 75 square inches of floor space per hen. Burger King also required its suppliers to adhere to stricter air quality guidelines, and required a ban on forced molting.
Burger King began, in the same time period, to look into the practice of gestation cages, where sows are kept in a very confined stall, and began purchasing some of its supply from producers keeping the sows in alternative, more humane, environments.
Sources: Humane Society of the United States– hsus.org , Socialfunds.com, Humane Farming association– hfa.org