Cracker Barrel — which operates more than 600 locations in 42 states — is the latest restaurant chain to acquiesce to rising consumer demand for more humanely produced food.
The company announced it will begin formulating plans that provide for a pork supply system free of gestation crates used to confine breeding pigs.
“We’re seeing an evolution in Americans’ awareness and attitudes regarding meat produced with higher animal welfare in mind,” said Vance Fouraker, Cracker Barrel’s Vice President of Strategic Sourcing.
“We recognize that gestation crates may not be the best method to meet higher animal welfare goals and are committed to evolving to sustainable alternatives.”
The Humane Society of the United States ardently supports Cracker Barrel’s move. “We are grateful to Cracker Barrel for putting a stake in the ground when it comes to the extreme confinement of sows in gestation crates,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS.
“Americans care about how farm animals are treated, and gestation crate confinement is simply out-of-step with those values.”
Cracker Barrel acknowledges the importance of studies that have investigated consumer preferences regarding breeding pigs being housed in groups rather than individual crates, as well as the economic analysis reflected in the study by Iowa State University, documenting lower production costs for pork suppliers who use group housing.
Cracker Barrel is following other leading food companies — McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Kroger and Safeway — that have announced moves toward gestation crate-free supply chains.
“Compass Group, the nation’s largest foodservice company with more than 10,000 dining operations across the country, enacted a policy to have its supply chain be gestation crate-free by 2017.”
Major pork producers like Smithfield Foods and Hormel have also agreed to stop using gestation crates at their company-owned breeding operations by 2017, and Cargill is already 50-percent gestation crate-free.
“Cracker Barrel hopes that all of our pork suppliers will share in our vision for a gestation crate-free future, and we’re excited to work with them to achieve this goal,” added Fouraker.
In contrast, Domino’s Pizza shareholders recently rejected a Humane Society proposal to even just study ending the use of pork from suppliers who confine pregnant pigs in small gestation stalls.
In response to Domino’s decision, Texas Farm Bureau publications director, Mike Barnett, posted a letter on the bureau blog praising Domino’s decision to oppose animal rights groups and not caving into HSUS demands.
Barnett closed his blog by thanking Domino’s “for not playing follow-the-leader in these fast-food follies” and ordering an extra-large pepperoni pizza.
Barnett can whine like a sow till the cows come home, but the tide has turned in favor of consumers and activists who have a healthy regard for the welfare of living creatures on factory farms living on Death Row, waiting to be slaughtered.