Burger King Swears Off Gestation Crates and Ups the Ante with Cage-Free Eggs

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Back in February, McDonald's announced it was through with gestation-crated pork products. We feared for McRib sandwiches, Sausage McMuffins and everything topped with bacon, so we called Paul Shapiro, a spokesman for the Humane Society, to talk out the impact of the move.

Shapiro called the event an earthquake in the restaurant industry, saying that McDonald's was one of the largest pork purchasers in the country and that the announcement would have a profound effect on how the pork industry views gestation crating and other animal-farming practices. And today, the earth shook a little more.

It took a few months, but Burger King announced today that it too is finished with gestation crate pork. In fact, Burger King loves animals so much they decided to get rid of eggs produced by hens kept in battery cages. The changes will be implemented over the next five years, the company announced..

How this plays out remains in flux. Announcing massive changes to your supply chain like this is easy -- and perhaps necessary when your competition is doing the same -- but implementing these changes is difficult. Smithfield, the country's largest pork producer, announced it was done with gestation crates years ago. Give us 10 or so years, the company said. And then halfway though it backed out, only to reaffirm its commitment after animal welfare groups turned up the pressure.

Still, many pigs processed by Smithfield come from farms that use gestation crates, just like most of the eggs Americans eat still come from hens kept in woefully small cages. Hopefully Burger King and McDonald's will drive this promised effort to completion. It's not impossible. Other large restaurants, including Chipotle, have been responsibly purchasing animal products for years.

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