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[New York Times]

In what animal welfare advocates are describing as a "historic advance," Burger King, the world's second-largest hamburger chain, said yesterday that it would begin buying eggs and pork from suppliers that did not confine their animals in cages and crates.

The company said that it would also favor suppliers of chickens that use gas, or "controlled-atmospheric stunning," rather than electric shocks to knock birds unconscious before slaughter. It is considered a more humane method, though only a handful of slaughterhouses use it.

The goal for the next few months, Burger King said is for 2 percent of its eggs to be "cage free," and for 10 percent of its pork to come from farms that allow sows to move around inside pens, rather than being confined to crates. The company said those percentages would rise as more farmers shift to these methods and more competitively priced supplies become available.

While Burger King's initial goals may be modest, food marketing experts and animal welfare advocates said yesterday that the shift would put pressure on other restaurant and food companies to adopt similar practices.

"I think the whole area of social responsibility, social consciousness, is becoming much more important to the consumer," said Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm. "I think that the industry is going to see that it's an increasing imperative to get on that bandwagon."

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said Burger King's initiatives put it ahead of its competitors in terms of animal welfare.

"That's an important trigger for reform throughout the entire industry," Mr. Pacelle said.

Burger King's announcement is the latest success for animal welfare advocates, who were once dismissed as fringe groups, but are increasingly gaining mainstream victories.

Last week, the celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck announced that the meat and eggs he used would come from animals raised under strict animal welfare codes. And in January, the world's largest pork processor, Smithfield Foods, said it would phase out confinement of pigs in metal crates over the next decade.

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full story:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/28/business/28burger.html?ref=business


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