Burger King announced a phase-in of new, industry-leading animal welfare policies today, in what The Humane Society of the United States applauded as an historic advance for the fast-food sector. The HSUS has been talking with the fast-food giant for more than a year about improving its farm animal standards.

“With its new policy changes, Burger King is signaling to agribusiness that the most inhumane factory farming practices are on the way out,” says Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “As a result of this decision, large numbers of farm animals across the nation will be spared from much needless suffering.”

After extensive dialogue with The HSUS and independent discussions with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Burger King spelled out details of its decision:

· It has begun purchasing two percent of its eggs from producers that do not confine laying hens in battery cages. It will more than double the percentage of cage-free eggs it’s using to five percent by the end of the year.

· It has implemented a purchasing preference for cage-free eggs. Such a preference is intended to favor producers that convert away from battery-cage confinement systems.

· It has started purchasing 10 percent of its pork from producers that do not confine breeding pigs in gestation crates, which are too small to allow even ordinary movement. The volume of pork purchases coming from gestation crate-free producers will double to 20 percent by the end of the year.

· It has also implemented a purchasing preference for pork from producers that do not confine breeding sows in gestation crates.

· It has implemented a preference for producers that use controlled atmosphere killing of chickens used for meat. This has been shown to cause significantly less suffering than the conventional method of slaughter used by most of the nation’s poultry slaughterers.

In the past, major restaurant chains have incorporated animal welfare considerations into their operating policies. However, this step by Burger King, the nation’s No. 2 fast food chain, is the most significant yet. The HSUS urged other industry leaders to quickly follow suit and forgo their defense of abusive practices that inflict needless suffering on farm animals.

“The more consumers learn about factory farming cruelties, the more they insist upon better treatment for animals,” Pacelle says. “There is a long way to go before we end farm animal abuse, but today’s announcement sets the country on a clear trajectory on factory farming issues.”

Burger King’s decision is the latest in a recent string of historic advancements for farm animals in the U.S. In the wake of successful HSUS-led ballot initiatives banning gestation crate confinement in Florida and Arizona , the U.S.’s and Canada’s largest pig producers—-Smithfield Foods and Maple Leaf Foods—-announced in recent weeks that they are phasing out their use of gestation crates. Just last week, Wolfgang Puck announced a wide-ranging plan to improve animal welfare in his supply chain. After The HSUS launched its No Battery Eggs campaign, numerous retailers, foodservice providers, and more than 100 schools have eliminated or dramatically reduced their use of eggs from hens confined in battery cages.

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