Today marks another milestone in our global campaign to improve the lives of animals in agriculture, with Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, demanding changes in the way chickens are raised for their meat. Nestlé will require a specific set of important reforms from all of its suppliers and will phase out its use of chickens from farms that breed, house, and slaughter the birds in ways that are simply no longer acceptable.
Nestlé USA’s announcement specifies that over the next several years its suppliers must stop breeding chickens to grow so fat so fast that they suffer crippling injuries and ailments, by switching to breeds of birds approved by either the Global Animal Partnership or the RSPCA (both of which we are proud to endorse). The company is also mandating that its suppliers give chickens more room to move, provide “environmental enrichments” to allow animals the ability to engage in their natural behaviors, and slaughter them using a more modern and less cruel system.
The HSUS and Nestlé have a long-standing relationship. In 2014, we partnered with Nestlé to announce its first-ever animal welfare policy. And in 2015, we did so again when Nestlé announced its plans to switch to 100 percent cage-free eggs up and down its supply chain. Since then, we’ve continued working with the food giant—including meeting with company leaders at their headquarters in both Switzerland and California. Today’s announcement is the latest evolution in this productive partnership.
Last month, Nestlé USA announced its purchase of Sweet Earth Foods – a brand of mostly plant-based food products, including meat-free bacon, breakfast burritos, and more. “In the United States, we’re experiencing a consumer shift toward plant-based proteins,” said Paul Grimwood, Nestlé USA Chairman and CEO. “In fact, as many as 50 percent of consumers now are seeking more plant-based foods in their diet and 40 percent are open to reducing their traditional meat consumption. One of Nestlé’s strategic priorities is to build out our portfolio of vegetarian and flexitarian choices in line with modern health trends.”
The company also recently published an article all about the benefits of meat-free eating, noting that “plant-based foods offer a plethora of nutrition benefits” and proclaiming that Nestlé is working hard to offer more plant-based foods.
When the world’s largest food company mandates better treatment for animals—and makes bold statements about the benefits of plant-based eating for human health and environmental stewardship—it signals that there are broad cultural and behavioral changes occurring in our society. Those changes are given life and have practical meaning when major companies adopt granular policies on procurement and alter the way food moves from farm to retail to table. Person by person, company by company, the contours of the humane economy are taking shape, and it’s breathtaking to see.