Fast food franchises KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks come under fire after a new farm animal welfare report found they showed “limited evidence” of concern about the humane handling of livestock in their operations.
The three companies were all grouped together in ‘level five’ of the latest Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare study from World Animal Protection, Compassion in World Farming and Coller Capital, indicating that the care of cows, pigs and chickens is intended for food production were not a major factor in guiding corporate strategy.
The annual benchmark report assesses 110 global food companies and groups them into one of six tiers, using a checklist approach to examine a company’s attitude and practices regarding the ethical treatment of animals.
Level one indicates that a market leader sets an example for others, while a level six categorization implies that no provision for the care of farm animals has been put in place.
The real winner of the study, perhaps surprisingly, was McDonald’s, with the company securing a Tier two spot in 2017, placing it just below Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Co-Op.
The news comes as KFC goes through a scorching hot week, making headlines after being hit by a sudden shortage of poultry due to “teething issues” with its new delivery partner, DHL.
The American fry chain claims that all of its independent suppliers are approved by industry regulator Assured Food Standards and that all chickens shipped to its restaurants from the UK and Ireland come with pecking items, roosts and natural light during captivity.
Yum! Brands, which owns both KFC and Pizza Hut, said in a statement: “We do not believe that Yum’s level five ranking accurately reflects the welfare standards of KFC UK & Ireland.”
The company says it never uses caged birds, only takes eggs in the open, employs independent welfare auditors to inspect its UK operations and points out that one of its poultry suppliers received a level three rating in the same report.
In the meantime, Starbucks has pledged to only purchase cage-free eggs for its sandwiches and says it is working to eradicate their use – and that of broilers – from its supply chain.
Subway and Burger King fared slightly better than their competitors in the benchmark report, receiving a level four ranking, grouping them with companies seen as ‘making progress’ in implementing improved conditions for animals.
McDonald’s has decided to reform its practices and public image over the past decades, addressing consumer concerns about its meat content directly in major advertising campaigns.
But the company still “has a long way to go,” particularly when it comes to improving conditions for factory-raised chickens, according to Steve McIvor, managing director of World Animal Protection.
“Like any other animal, chickens should be given the chance to live a decent life, free from pain and stress,” he said.
“It’s clear that fast food companies can no longer afford to ignore animal welfare. Consumers are showing that they care more and more about animal welfare when deciding where to eat, ”added McIvor.
A McDonald’s spokesperson responded, “We believe our results-based approach provides the most comprehensive and animal-centric pathway to measurably improve the welfare of chickens.
“We are currently working to create a multi-stakeholder global advisory board to inform our ongoing chicken sustainability efforts, including welfare. “