Fast Food Embracing Animal Welfare

chicken poultry farm animal AP

You'll never guess what's different about the Egg McMuffin at McDonald's.

It's not the eggs that come first here. It's the chickens.

Quietly, both McDonald's and Burger King have become leaders in animal welfare, demanding improvements for the hens that lay the fast food eggs and new standards for cattle and hogs destined to become sandwiches.

The hens, raised in crowded cages, must now have room to flap their wings, and at the slaughterhouse, chickens can't be thrown around like trash.

But, as CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports, why would a restaurant that serves up so many animals care?

"In our minds it's a big movement," says Bob Langert, Director of Social Responsibility for McDonald's.

Langert says the company is simply responding to consumer demand.

"It's a part of doing business. It's not a fad. It's not just a nice thing to do. It's not a left field idea. It's mainstream," says Langert.

Animal rights activists argue their protests created this new humane farming movement, but whatever started it, big business gets it.

Paul Sauder, one of the largest egg farmers in the country was one of the first to give hens more room. He used to cram nine hens into every cage --now there are seven.

But is it humane to keep birds in one cage?

"Scientists tell us it is," says Sauder. "They are producing more eggs than they did before. If a bird is treated better, it's going to be more productive."

But for all of the momentum behind the humane movement, right now, for the vast majority of farm animals in America, very little has changed.

For example, the hens raised by Gerry and Jesse LaFlamme never set foot in a cage. Cage free is humane they argue, and yet, cage free is just 1 percent of the market.

"I think the moves for less density in cages is a step in the right direction, but I think what we are doing is better," says Gerry LaFlamme.

Adele Douglass is organizing a program called Certified Humane to enforce new standards for the raising of all livestock, including cattle and hogs.

"A cow needs to act like a cow, a pig needs to act like a pig," she says.

"Years ago producers would say to me if consumers wanted humanely raised we would do that.

"Guess what? This is what they (consumers) want."

So the food industry understands the rules are changing on the farm. That the public now judges food not just on taste and price, but by the treatment and care of the animals that provide it.
  • Jaime Holguin

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter