In an attempt to grab back some of the fast food market share from McDonald’s, Burger King is trying just about anything to win over consumers. Salads! David Beckham! A bacon sundae! But their most recent move is aimed squarely at those who care about animals–they’ve promised to switch to cage-free eggs and pork products by 2017. And while I want to be happy for this decision (and don’t want to be a cynical jerk), I do want to point out that the “cage-free” label is basically meaningless.
In a press release this morning, the company stated that, by 2017, they will be transitioning to only cage-free eggs, and only pork products that come from suppliers who can demonstrate that they don’t use gestational crates (a super-inhumane form of crates…and a move which McDonald’s and the pork industry as a whole have already beat them to). The King also goes on to explain that the decision is “backed by the humane society,” ostensibly because the Humane Society is happy to hear any kind of change to unfriendly, hurtful factory farming practices.
Unfortunately, Burger King’s decision, which is being praised by a lot of media outlets as “progressive,” doesn’t really go far enough to make much of a difference. It is a half-measure, which uses an unregulated turn of phrase, instead of a salient label.
“Cage-free” is one of those food labels that isn’t really defined or regulated but the USDA or any governing body, and, as a result, is widely acknowledged to be fairly meaningless. Yes, it does necessitative that laying chickens not be kept in cages, but beyond that, there’s no legal definition. Cage-free chickens are often still kept confined (in crowded, dark barns), and rarely have access to fresh air. Cage-free does nothing to regulate humane practices–so it’s really not much of a victory at all, when it comes to the treatment of the animals coming from Burger King’s egg suppliers.
Additionally, the decision does nothing for the non-ursine livestock that Burger King uses in their meat products. Those chicken salads and beefy burgers will still be coming from pollution-causing, unsustainable, inhumane factory farms.
I’m glad to see that fast food companies are considering the options and looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact (and the amount of unnecessary and gratuitous pain which its animals go through–because, even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, you must admit that this is excessive and leaves room for improvement), but using buzzwords like “cage-free” is not the way to do it.
Burger King, consider making real changes–like opting for Certified Humane or Farmer’s Alliance, both of which meaningful and enforced–instead of partial measures to try to convince consumers that you’re different.
Image: koko-tewan via Shutterstock