03/29/2007 12:19 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Burger King Boards The Animal Welfare Bandwagon

As baby steps go, these are huge; Burger King's adding a dash of farm animal compassion to its menu. The nation's second biggest fast food chain announced yesterday that 2 percent of its egg supply will soon be cage free, and 10 percent of its pork will come from hog farmers who don't use gestation crates.

Burger King's decision may only raise the bar on farm animal welfare just a smidgen, but it's not paltry to the poultry and the pigs kept confined within an inch of their miserable lives. As The Humane Society's President and CEO Wayne Pacelle notes on the HSUS website:

"With its new policy changes, Burger King is signaling to agribusiness that the most inhumane factory farming practices are on the way out...As a result of this decision, large numbers of farm animals across the nation will be spared much needless suffering."

The Humane Society and PETA have been pestering fast food companies for years to steer clear of factory farm practices that appeal to agribiz but appall the average American. A report in Wednesday's NY Times cites the growing clout of ethical eaters:

"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..."

... Burger King executives said the move was driven by their desire to stay ahead of consumer trends and to encourage farmers to move into more humane egg and meat production.

"We want to be doing things long before they become a concern for consumers," Mr. Grover said. "Like a hockey player, we want to be there before the puck gets there."

Of course, one Puck--Wolfgang--already is there, but the more, the merrier. In an ideal world, there would be no factory farms at all, and maybe sometime in the future, they'll be obsolete. But we're stuck with them for now. So let's keep on raising a stink about them. Who knows? They might just have to clean up their act.