We’re building major momentum with our new campaign to improve the lives of broiler chickens, with Panera Bread and Sodexo this week committing to work with U.S. suppliers to implement on-the-farm reforms. These are big, powerful brand names in the food sales world, and they are two very strong companies we’ve worked with on a set of prior reforms for animal welfare.
Within the last two years especially, you’ve heard from me about joint announcements we’ve made with companies to eliminate the confinement of calves in veal crates, breeding pigs in gestation crates, and egg-laying hens in cages. Whether it’s with Walmart, McDonald’s, Kroger, ConAgra, or the dozens upon dozens of others, we’ve established a new norm in the industry that immobilizing animals does not line up with consumer sentiment about how farm animals ought to be treated. We are working to end the era of extreme confinement of animals in cages and crates, and that day is coming.
While these advancements are something to celebrate, we also know there’s more to be done in creating a more humane food system. And at the top of the list for The HSUS is the treatment of chickens raised for meat. In our industrial food production system, broiler chickens as a matter of routine are genetically manipulated to grow so fast, they’re often barely even able to walk by the end of their lives, which is usually only about 47 days. (Yes, all chicken meat comes from baby chickens.) Because of their forced rapid growth, one of the most common forms of mortality on the factory farm is heart attacks, something unheard of in any other type of animal agriculture for animals so young. The living conditions are typically spare and unforgiving, with most birds being forced to live jam-packed inside barren, windowless warehouses without any forms of enrichment — even modest ones like hay bales or perches. At slaughter, they’re shackled while fully conscious, and then put through a killing process that is not governed by any federally mandated humane slaughter standard. The federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act is applied to cattle and pigs, but not to chickens or turkeys – an appalling and ethically inconsistent gap in the law.
But there’s hope for the nine billion chickens raised and slaughtered every year in the United States for consumption.
You may remember that back in June, we worked with Perdue — the fourth-largest poultry producer in the United States — to begin addressing the core issues outlined above. Since November we’ve been working with Panera Bread and Pret a Manger to be the first restaurant chains to enact broiler chicken welfare policies. Besides Sodexo, we also worked in recent weeks with Compass Group, Aramark, Delaware North, and Centerplate – collectively, the nation’s five largest food service companies that run the dining operations at tens of thousands of colleges, universities, hospitals, prisons, event centers, and stadiums — to do the same.
We’re confident that just like the confinement issues before, we’re going to make progress with other major food sellers in the United States to address the broiler welfare issue head-on. The Panera Bread and Sodexo announcements are just a start, and we’re gearing up for 2017 to be the year when the fate of the broiler chicken turned dramatically for the better.
P.S. We’ve also received some great news for egg-laying hens: AccorHotels, an international hotel group that operates 4,000 hotels across 95 countries, announced today that it is partnering with Humane Society International to implement a global free-range egg policy. AccorHotels will eliminate caged eggs from its liquid and shell egg supply chain in Europe by 2020, and in remaining markets within eight years. The Brazil Fast Food Corporation, one of Brazil and Latin America’s largest restaurant companies, has also committed to switching to exclusively cage-free eggs in its more than 1,250 restaurants, after talks with HSI.