Burger King To Go Cage Free For Chickens And Pigs

04.25.12 | Sarah Harnisch

Burger King wants announced today all of its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and pigs by 2017. The decision by the world's second-biggest fast-food restaurant raises the bar for other companies seeking to appeal to the rising consumer demand for more humanely produced fare. Burger King, uses hundreds of millions of eggs and tens of millions of pounds of pork annually. It could represent a game-change in the egg and pork supply business. Already 9 percent of the company's eggs and 20 percent of its pork are cage-free. Earlier this year, McDonalds and Wendy's announced that they have asked their pork suppliers to outline their plans for elimination of gestation crates without setting a timetable. Conventionally raised eggs come from hens confined in battery cages that give them roughly the same footprint as an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper. Most pork comes from sows that are confined during their four-month pregnancies in narrow crates.

In 2007 Burger King became the first major fast-food restaurant chain to incorporate animal welfare issues into its purchasing policies when it began sourcing at least some of its pork and eggs from cage-free suppliers. Since then Wal-Mart and Costco have transitioned their private-label eggs to 100 percent cage-free. Unilever, which uses 350 million eggs a year in its Hellmann's mayonnaise brand, is switching to 100 percent cage-free, and others such as Sonic, Subway, Ruby Tuesday, Kraft Food and ConAgra Foods are incorporating some percentage of cage-free eggs in their products.

Industry officials who have argued against cage-free eggs say hens are safer and eggs are less likely to be diseased in a cage system of hen housing.