Burger King pledged recently that by 2017, they will only serve eggs and pork from cage-free chicken and pigs. The pledge marks an attempt to increase sales and satisfy consumer demand for humanely treated food. What implications does this announcement have for the fast food industry?
The move towards improving the treatment of animals and increasing industry standards will mean little unless other restaurants follow suit. Burger King is the first major U.S. fast food chain to set a timeline towards becoming cage-free.
The announcement came just days before the restaurant revealed 10 new items on its menu in an effort to appear more “kid and familyfriendly” — a move which McDonald’s made over a decade ago.
Burger King is set to spend $750 million in the next year to update the look of over 7,000 stores, revamp marketing, and offer healthier menu options. Undoubtedly, these changes are a response to Wendy’s replacing Burger King as the No. 2 burger chain in U.S. sales in 2011.
How will these changes affect consumers’ wallets? Studies indicate that consumers are willing to pay a little more for humanely produced food.
Producers will likely be impacted most. They argue that by becoming cage-free, they become less competitive in the overall market. Some estimate that it costs $0.25 to $0.40 more per dozen eggs to produce cage-free eggs.
Burger King will give producers 5 years to make the transition. If other restaurant chains make similar changes, there could be a major shift in the food industry which would open up a large market for humanely raised animals.
The use of cage-free chickens will be for eggs but not the meat in their chicken menu items. Additionally, there was no mention of beef and improving conditions for cattle in the food production industry.
So as newscasters across the country dramatically hold up a single sheet of paper to indicate how much room a chicken has in a typical factory, it is important for consumers to remain informed and to really consider what these changes mean.
Chickens will still be held indoors, as will pigs. But they will be less confined. And the cage-free pledge will only affect pregnant sows; therefore, many pigs will not live any differently than they do now.
Switching to cage-free is only one step in improving a majorly flawed food production system but at least it’s a step in the right direction.