McDonald’s beats KFC, Burger King, Subway and Starbucks on animal welfare

The leading global measure of how companies perform on farm animal welfare has revealed that McDonald’s has outperformed its global rivals.
calendar icon 23 February 2018
clock icon 5 minute read

The sixth Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare (BBFAW) report launched at the London Stock Exchange yesterday (22 February), ranking 110 global food companies on farm animal welfare standards in tiers 1 to 6, with tier 1 being the best, and tier 6 the worst.

While no fast food company has achieved tier one status, McDonald’s - who feed 68 million people (approximately 1 percent of the world's population) per day - is towards the top of the ranking in tier 2, having made farm animal welfare a part of its business strategy.

McDonald’s has a universal Animal Health and Welfare Policy and has made important commitments to animal welfare. These include the sourcing of eggs from cage-free hens in the UK, Europe and New Zealand and the sourcing of higher welfare pork in the UK, as well as aims in the US to phase out cages for pregnant pigs, and the move toward sourcing cage free eggs in the US, Canada and Australia.

Despite the company’s achievement in the BBFAW Benchmark, McDonald’s still has a significant way to go to improve the welfare of the millions of meat chickens served up in its restaurants around the world. Of particular concern is the company’s lack of progress in addressing the chicken breed issue. An industry genetic arms race has led to the widespread use of fast-growth chickens whose legs can buckle under their own body weight and who can suffer from a range of leg, heart and lung problems. Furthermore, McDonald’s is yet to commit to giving these animals sufficient space to move around and behave more naturally.

Steve McIvor, CEO of World Animal Protection, said:

"It’s clear that fast food companies can no longer afford to ignore animal welfare. Consumers are showing that they increasingly care about the welfare of animals when they are deciding where to eat.

"McDonald’s have made some strides to improving conditions for farm animals in certain markets. However, they still have a lot more work to do to reduce the suffering of factory farmed chickens, who live in conditions that are totally unacceptable. Like any other animal, chickens must have the chance to live decent lives, free from pain and stress.

"Over 50 companies, including Subway and Burger King, have committed to make meaningful improvements to the lives of chickens and we are looking to McDonald’s to show leadership on this issue too."

The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare shows that there is more work to be done by other household names, which sit towards the bottom of the ranking. Brands such as KFC (in tier 5) show limited evidence that animal welfare is a key issue for their business at all, while fast-food favourites, Subway and Burger King, both rank in tier 4.

Meanwhile, UK-based pizza chain, Domino’s Pizza Company, having moved up three tiers this year to tier 3 has an established approach to farm animal welfare and performs significantly better than its rival Pizza Hut, and global coffee chain, Starbucks, which both sit in tier 5. For these companies, farm animal welfare is on the business agenda but there is limited evidence of implementation.

Farm animal welfare ranking (limited to specific companies)

British and Swiss companies dominate tier 1. Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Co-op Group, Cranswick and Migros have all taken the lead on farm animal welfare. Surprisingly, mega-brands Mars Inc and Muller both rank at the bottom in tier 6, providing limited, if any evidence that they recognise farm animal welfare – something their customers will no-doubt be very concerned about.

Steve McIvor continues:

"Our aim with this report was always to encourage better disclosure of companies’ standards — which will encourage others to act.

"Global companies like Mars, Kraft Heinz and Starbucks are really trailing behind. We hope to see them and others working hard to improve standards for farm animals, and rise up the ranks in future years."

The report shows that many of the 110 global food companies covered by the Benchmark are integrating farm animal welfare into their management and reporting processes.

• 47% of these companies now have explicit board or senior management oversight of farm animal welfare.

• 72% have published formal improvement objectives for farm animal welfare.

• 87 companies (79%) have made commitments to the avoidance of close confinement in one or more of the major markets in which they operate. The most common corporate commitments relate to the elimination of cages for laying hens and the elimination of sow stalls.

For more information, please click here

Ryan Johnson

Editor at The Poultry Site

Ryan worked in conservation from 2008 to 2017, during which time he operated a rainbow trout hatchery and helped to maintain public and protected green spaces in Canada for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. As editor of The Poultry Site, he now writes about challenges and opportunities in agriculture across the globe.

© 2000 - 2023 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.