While we take pride in forging unexpected alliances on specific issues to advance animals’ interests – whether with SeaWorld, United Egg Producers, or even in the world of horse racing with the Jockey Club – we also focus plenty of energy on working with companies that have a well-established commitment to engaging with us on animal issues.
Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO) has long breathed life into the notion of the “humane economy” and made animal welfare a core value of its business. The food management company runs more than 650 dining locations at colleges, universities, museums, corporate headquarters, stadiums, and other venues, and it was one of the first big food sellers to switch to cage-free eggs, crate-free veal, and gestation-crate-free pork, and also to make plant-based foods a priority.
The company’s CEO, Fedele Bauccio, served on the renowned Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production and has published numerous pieces calling for an end to factory farming. The company’s vice president, Maisie Ganzler, has spoken at press conferences with me on Prop 2 and has used her position within the industry to push suppliers and to demand improved standards of care for farm animals.
Today, I’m proud to announce the next step on Bon Appétit’s journey with us in creating a more humane food system. Building up on the company’s previous efforts, Bon Appétit has now updated its animal welfare policy to include the following measures:
- Eliminating tail docking of dairy cows within its supply chain immediately.
- Working with its main pork supplier—which has already eliminated the inhumane growth promoter ractopamine and is moving to group sow housing—to eliminate farrowing crates (often used during weaning even in gestation-crate-free operations), to add enrichment for all the pigs, and to eliminate tail docking and castration or to use painkillers during the procedure.
- Shrinking portion sizes of the meat it serves, and offering up more meat-free meals to incent its customers to reduce meat consumption
Finally, in what is clearly its biggest step to date, the company is increasing the percentage of chicken meat it purchases from suppliers that use healthier breeds of chicken known as “slow-growing.” Today, commercial breeds of birds have been genetically manipulated to grow so fast that they routinely suffer from lameness and even heart attacks at just a few weeks of age – when they should have the vigor of any young animal. Slowing down the unnaturally rapid rate of growth can address this issue. In addition, BAMCO is going to work with its poultry producers to offer enrichment for the birds, like perches, straw bales, and pecking objects; lower the stocking density (so birds aren’t as tightly crammed together); and eliminate the cruel process of shackling birds while they’re alive during slaughter. The company is among the first to adopt these commitments for “broiler” chickens (those used for meat), along with the animal-welfare leader Whole Foods Market, which has more than 400 supermarkets around the country.
The humane economy requires pioneers – the companies that are first in and that demonstrate that not only is a high commitment to animal welfare the right thing to do, but it’s also workable and profitable. Bon Appétit Management Company and Whole Foods are reminding us that even after animals are freed from cages and crates, we have other farm animal welfare business to attend to – including the inherent problems with the breeding and housing of chickens in the meat industry. Given there are nearly nine billion birds raised for meat, it’s one of the biggest areas of opportunity for reducing animal suffering.