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Largest US Food Service Company Embraces Game-Changing Rules on Animal Welfare

04/30/2015 11:18 am ET | Updated Jun 30, 2015
Scott Olson via Getty Images

At the gathering of The HSUS's Board of Directors and National Council this past weekend in Philadelphia, it was impossible not to notice perhaps the tallest and most recognizable building on the city skyline from the broad window of our meeting room.

This skyscraper is the home of Aramark, the largest U.S.-based food service company, with sales topping $15 billion. Aramark has become a remarkable partner with The HSUS, and today, I am so pleased to announce that the company itself has reached new heights when it comes to animal welfare, announcing a game-changing set of new policies to improve the lives of animals in its supply chain and setting the bar even higher for other corporate players in the world of food service and retail.

The Fortune 500 company -- which runs the dining operations at thousands of schools and other institutions across the country -- is tackling three key areas where industrial agriculture has been badly failing in its production model: intensive confinement, painful procedures and practices, and unnaturally fast growth.

On confinement, the company is eliminating from its supply chain all cages for laying hens (within five years), gestation crates for mother pigs (within two years), and crates for veal calves (within two years). Aramark's policy will ensure that millions of animals won't ever know the suffering that comes from a lifetime inside a cage.

Especially within the pork, cattle, and dairy sectors, amputating parts of the animals' bodies -- without pain relief -- is the norm, including castration, tail docking, and dehorning. Aramark sees this as unacceptable and is now working with its suppliers to either eliminate these practices or, at a minimum, use pain killers while its suppliers explore alternatives. For chickens and turkeys, the most painful acute welfare assault happens at slaughter when they're dumped, shackled and dunked upside down in an electrified bath while fully conscious -- and Aramark is now going to work with its suppliers to end that archaic method of slaughter, as well.

The company is also addressing the hidden yet serious problem of unnatural growth forced upon farm animals, by eliminating the harmful feed additives and hormones pumped into cattle and pigs, including rBGH, zilpaterol hydrochloride, and ractopamine. It is reaffirming its commitment of refusing to buy foie gras, and will now work with its chicken and turkey suppliers to address welfare issues associated with genetic selection for rapid growth, which produces chronic pain and a lack of mobility in the animals.

The collaboration of Aramark and the HSUS may be one of the best examples to date of how a for-profit and non-profit can work cohesively to build a more humane society. In contributing to a humane economy, Aramark is making animal welfare a core tenet of its business model. My hat's off to the company's determined and caring staff for making the world a kinder place and reminding the nation that the biggest companies in the world can take bold action to help animals.

This post first appeared on Wayne Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.