Burger King, the world's second largest fast food chain, signaled bold change this week when it announced it will source 100 percent of its eggs and pork from cage-free chickens and crate-free pigs by 2017. The company, which purchases hundreds of millions of eggs and millions of pounds of pork annually, currently sources just nine percent of eggs and 20 percent of pork from cage-free vendors. Burger King joins a number of other brands making cage-free egg purchasing decisions, but according to Matthew Prescott, a spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States, this is the first time a major chain has made a commitment of this caliber.
This announcement signals an important shift for the industry and for consumers, even if they don't happen to dine at BK. USA Today reports that the cage-free issue has just recently hit the public radar in a big way, with Paul Shapiro, vice president for animal farm protection at the Humane Society, stating, "This is an issue that just four to five months ago was not on the food industry's radar. Now it's firmly cemented into the mainstream in a way that I think few people would have imagined." Bruce Kennedy of GreenBiz.com also noted that as such a large buyer, Burger King could actually force more of the industry to shift to cage-free, ultimately opening up a larger market and reducing the price for everyone due to economies of scale.
Big brands have the opportunity to set industry precedents and drive social and environmental progress in ways that make it hard for others to ignore. Just as Walmart helped forever change the laundry aisle by committing to sell only concentrated detergent, Burger King may in fact do the same for cage-free.
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