McDonald’s Trails Chipotle By 11 Years in Eliminating Cruel Pig Pens

Fast food titan McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE:MCD) has announced plans to require its pork suppliers to phase out metal gestation cages considered cruel by animal-rights groups, Bloomberg reported Monday.

In a statement released Monday with the Humane Society of the United States, Dan Gorsky, McDonald’s senior vice president of North America supply-chain management, explained,“There are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows.”

The world’s largest restaurant chain uses pork in sausage McMuffins, breakfast platters and McRib sandwiches. McDonald’s is “one of the largest purchasers of pork — bacon and sausage, in particular,” according to David Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council, Bloomberg said. The company purchases approximately one percent of the U.S. pork supply, said Lisa McComb, a McDonald’s spokeswoman.

McDonald’s pork suppliers have until May to submit plans to eliminate the pens, which, according to Bloomberg, usually measure about 2 feet by 7 feet — too small to allow a sow to move much or turn around.

Some may consider the move a bit slow in coming. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE:CMG) started requiring that its pork suppliers keep their pigs outdoors or in large cages and use vegetarian, antibiotic-free feed 11 years ago.

According to Paul Shapiro, a spokesman for the Washington-based Humane Society, pigs kept in the conventional metal gestation cages are more prone to disease and suffer more often from illnesses such as urinary tract infections. He added that they also undergo psychological stress because pigs are “very social, intelligent animals.”

The statement said Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. and Smithfield, Virginia-based Smithfield Foods Inc. (NYSE:SFD) are spearheading the effort to get rid of the pens, according to the report.