Burger King's big announcement this week that, by 2017, it will only purchase eggs and pork from suppliers that do not use chicken battery cages or pig gestation crates.It's clear that consumer demand for food integrity continues to have a growing influence, as seen by recent events. Not the least of which is
As a result of this move, animals that provide hundreds of millions of eggs and tens of millions of pounds of pork every year will be "spared lifelong confinement in a cage so small they can barely even move," says Matthew Prescott from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Better animal welfare standards are an expressed community value that Big Ag cannot deny.
While some companies have been responding to consumer demand by incorporating some percentages of cage-free eggs into their purchase orders, the landslide passage by voters in 2008 of California's Proposition 2, which will ban chicken cages and gestation crates by 2015, caused buyers and suppliers nationwide to take notice. Since then, studies have shown that shoppers are willing to pay more for products they believe are produced to higher animal protection standards.
When people do take notice of how their food is produced, they move to hold food producers accountable when practices don't match consumer values. And unless the industry successfully keeps consumers uninformed about what goes on behind closed doors (via pushing Ag Gag laws that discourage evidence of horrific farm conditions from reaching the public), agribusinesses have no choice but to change their ways.
We all know what happened when consumers finally realized they had been eating "pink slime" all these years without knowing it … a major backlash that cost the industry all the profits it had reaped by keeping "pink slime" a secret (and ignoring a whistleblower's concerns).
But we can't be in the dark anymore.
FIC continues to support industry truth-tellers in the food system, as well as citizen activists, who bring increased transparency that will conceivably prompt more actions like that of Burger King.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.