I come from a working-class family – my father was a winning and hard-charging high school football coach and my mother a part-time secretary when she wasn’t managing a household of six (eight, if you include the dogs). Even though I loved animals, I had only a limited understanding of the depth and breadth of animal cruelty problems, and certainly not the problems faced by animals in the food supply. I did hear about dolphins being killed by tuna fishermen, and boycotted that product. But I sure wasn’t thinking about meat production. One of my staples growing up was Campbell’s chicken noodle soup – one of the most popular food items for millions of Americans for decades.
Now that I do know about industrial animal agriculture, I know that I was inadvertently supporting some exceedingly inhumane practices as a consumer. In the intervening years, a harsh system of chicken production has become even more unforgiving. One of the increasingly distressing elements of contemporary production is that meat birds are bred for unusually fast growth and large body size, with consequences for leg, joint, and even heart health. Some of the birds cannot even stand or walk even though they’re not confined in cages.
Now we may be seeing these issues headed for a major turnaround. Today, we’re delighted to share in an announcement with Campbell Soup Company that it will work with its poultry providers to reform the way chickens in its supply chain are treated. Specifically, the company will mandate that its suppliers switch to healthier breeds of birds (approved by either the RSPCA or Global Animal Partnership), give birds more space to live in, provide them “environmental enrichments” that allow them to engage in their natural behaviors, and slaughter them using a more modern and less cruel system.
Campbell Soup Company, founded in 1869 by Joseph Campbell, a fruit merchant, and Abraham Anderson, an ice box manufacturer, is one of the world’s largest food businesses, with a market capitalization of over $14 billion and thousands of products on store shelves across the world.
Today’s announcement extends Campbell’s long track record on animal welfare – one The HSUS has been proud to be a part of over the last decade.
Study after study shows that consumers want farm animals to be treated well, and Campbell’s has been foresighted in revamping its purchasing practices to reflect this sensibility. In 2010, Campbell’s became one of the earliest voices for the push to free hens from cages by announcing that it would switch to cage-free eggs for its popular Pepperidge Farm brand. Then, in 2012, it became one of the first food companies to announce it would ban gestation crates for mother pigs from its pork supply. And in 2016, extending its Pepperidge Farm commitment, Campbell’s announced that it would switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs across all its brands.
Meanwhile, Campbell Soup also recently announced that it’s working to acquire Pacific Foods—a maker of almond milk and other dairy-free beverages as well as seitan, a popular plant-based meat replacement. That decision taps into the growing demand for plant-based foods. Between 2009 and 2015 alone, worldwide sales of dairy-free milk doubled, from $10 billion to $21 billion, according to Euromonitor. And “with plant-based diets all the rage in the US,” Food Navigator reports. “in the past five years, sales of almond milk have grown 250% to more than $894.6 million in 2015 … [while] the total milk market shrunk by more than $1 billion.” Similarly, plant-based meat sales have grown eight percent annually since 2010 at twice the rate of processed meat sales, and are expected to continue rising 11 percent annually through 2020. By 2054, it is expected that alternative proteins will make up one-third of the protein market.
Every company must adjust to changing values in American society, and that’s no less true for a major global food brand like Campbell’s. People know too much about problems in industrial agriculture to ignore the moral questions involved. I’m glad Campbell’s is hearing those concerns and I want to congratulate this major food retailer and mainstream brand on its decision to continue changing for the better.