Corporate Responsibility?

It seems like a lot of these stories are making headlines lately!  First Sainsbury’s (UK based grocery store chain) announced it will only sell eggs from free-roaming chickens, then Wolfgang Puck said he was revamping the menus at his restaurants to include more organic and humanely raised foods and yesterday Burger King announced that it was going to require that 2 percent of their eggs be “cage free,” and 10 percent of its pork to come from farms that allow sows to move around inside pens, as opposed to being confined to crates. 

The companies making these changes are doing so as a direct result of consumer awareness and activism.   Sure, we can say that these measures do not go far enough to protect the welfare of food animals.  It is of course only a small percentage of the animals currently living on factory farms.  This is true, but this is a good place place to start.  Just like the old Chinese proverb says "the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."  This is the first step and like it or not, It is going to take a response from these corporate giants to change the factory farm industry.  They are the quantity buyers and as such are able to force their suppliers to change their practices.  

One of the more positive effects of these stories is all the attention the media is giving them.  Not only are these animals going to live in better conditions, but the media is helping to raise public awareness as well.  When the NY Times does a story on this, it carries a different kind of "objectivity" than say when PETA speaks out about it.  PETA has its place, but they are not generally perceived as being objective.

Burger King has stated that they are not going to change their marketing efforts to reflect this decision.  They have also said that the prices on the menu will not reflect the increased food costs from their suppliers.  It begs the question…Does the common BK customer really care where their $1.50 hamburger came from?  The most likely answer is No.  If they cared about it, they probably would not be buying food from Burger King.   This change is strictly an internal corporate decision.  That can be good and bad.  It can mean that "organic, cage free" is just part of the regular menu, or it can make it easy to sweep under the rug at a convenient time.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen how much companies are willing to commit to purchase ethical food.  Small steps like these are good news, but they are a far cry from fixing the problem.  For this effort to be successful, companies will need to keep increasing the amount of ethical food they purchase and force their suppliers to change the way they raise animals.  It does not need to happen overnight, but measurable goals should be set to stay on target.

Read the NY Times article here

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Comment by Susan Subscribed to comments via email
2007-03-29 13:02:34

The people are speaking and some in the corporate world are listening. Am I cynical about corporate motivation? Yes, but I can’t let that interfere with the small but significant progress BK and Wolfgang Puck have initiated in what will continue to be a very tough long fight ahead.

Comment by eric Subscribed to comments via email
2007-03-29 14:25:27

It’s hard not to be cynical when you hear stories like this. You are right though, although these are small changes, they are significant nonetheless. Five years ago only the “Animal rights nuts” at PETA were calling attention to the problem. Now that people are waking up to what we are/have been eating, the mainstream population is calling attention to it. That can’t be a bad thing.

2007-06-26 09:25:40

[…] to "provide mainstream consumers with products they want."  I have written a couple of articles like this in the past and it never ceases to amaze me that little moves like this from […]

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