Last week, the fast-food giant Subway announced a comprehensive plan to require that its chicken suppliers enhance the way they treat animals. Subway is the world’s largest restaurant chain, with more than 25,000 locations in the United States alone.
Our Nine Billion Lives campaign to improve the welfare of chickens got even more wind in its sails when Ruby Tuesday made a nearly identical announcement a day later. Through our broiler chicken campaign that launched last fall, as well as work from other organizations, Ruby Tuesday has joined more than a dozen major food companies that have enacted animal welfare polices, including Burger King, TGI Fridays, Panera Bread, Jack in the Box, and Aramark.
In recent years, we’ve been working closely with Subway and Ruby Tuesday and hundreds of other companies to encourage them to find a constructive path forward on animal welfare. We’ve focused much of our reform efforts on breeding sows kept in crates and laying hens crammed into cages. But our latest campaign focuses on the well-being of chickens raised for meat – so-called broiler birds.
As new market research reveals, 60 percent of consumers are now more concerned about the welfare of animals in the food supply chain than they were even a few years ago. “Food companies should view improvement of their animal welfare standing as an essential competitive action,” the report states.
Companies like Subway and Ruby Tuesday are recognizing that customers want better outcomes for animals, and that they have an opportunity to capture increased brand loyalty and sales by addressing the issue proactively and not waiting for protests or regulatory reform.
In their latest animal welfare declarations, Subway and Ruby Tuesday are requiring that their chicken suppliers utilize standards set forth by the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), a leading animal welfare certification program, on how they breed, house and raise chickens; they’re also requiring a shift to more humane slaughter methods. Currently, nearly all chickens used in meat production are bred to grow so fat so fast, they suffer crippling leg deformities. They suffer heart attacks. Their lungs fail. They’re housed in barren, cramped environments and slaughtered using an archaic system that results in birds having their throats cut while still conscious.
This type of cruelty and the misery and suffering it creates are simply unacceptable, and a new set of minimum-care standards is now coursing through the industry. What was acceptable five years ago, or even a year ago, is no longer tolerable today.
Taking better care of animals is in the company’s best interests, and ethics and economics are aligned, rather than being viewed as competing forces. That’s the humane economy in action.