Pigging out at McDonald's will be better in the future, now that America's top fast food chain has demanded that farmers let their pigs out of gestation crates by 2022.
McDonald's joined Wendy's, Hormel Foods Corps., and other pork power-brokers in demanding that their pork suppliers phase out gestation crates, which are 7-foot by 2-foot cages that hold pregnant sows before they give birth. In 2007, the largest U.S. pork producer, Smithfield Foods, announced that they would phase out gestation crates because of public opinion that the crates were inhumane, reported the Washington Post.
The goal of the cages is to prevent the animals from fighting with each other, but animal rights groups have noted that the cages don't allow the pigs room to move around and subject them to torturous amounts of boredom.
“Simply because animals may be raised for food is no reason to abuse them mercilessly,” wrote Paul Shapiro of the Human Society of the United States, in the Globe Gazette. “And while most factory farm cruelty is hidden from the public, when Americans find out about routine abuses farm animals endure, they are appalled.”
Pressure from an appalled public helped push McDonald's to make their decision, just as public opinion kept the golden arches from buying genetically engineered potatoes. In 2000, McDonald's petitioned their potato peddlers to stop using transgenic spuds as did Frito-Lay and others, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Commodity producers are insulated from the public. Although the general populace may find practices appalling or unethical, large-scale producers don't generally sell their products directly to the public. On the other hand, producers do respond to the restaurants and grocery stores that sell their products. When McDonald's says that they aren't going to buy a product or demands specific production practices, farmers and ranchers take notice.
For example, a Greenpeace campaign targeted McDonald's for their use of chickens fed on soy grown on land recently deforested from the Brazilian Amazon. McDonald's put pressure on their producers and Brazil placed a moratorium on clearing the Amazon for soy to avoid losing one of their main customers.
Pig and piglets in a farrowing crate (Maqi, Wikimedia Commons)
Sows in a gestation crate in Levin, New Zealand. (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, New Zealand, Wikimedia Commons)