The fast food giant, one of the largest in the world, said it would phase out cages for its chickens and gestation crates for breeding pigs by 2017 – making its pledge among the most sweeping of many such vows made recently by competitors such as McDonald's and Wendy's.
Changes in animal welfare practices have swept the food service and supply industries in recent months, as undercover investigations by animal rights activists and concessions from major companies created a domino effect.
Burger King said its decision, which also includes provisions to only buy pork from suppliers who also plan to phase out gestation crates, was backed by the Humane Society of the United States. The chain, which operates thousands of restaurants, said it was among the first quick-serve restaurants to implement humane sourcing policies, with efforts to incorporate cage-free eggs and pork starting in 2007.
States such as Florida and California have laws that prohibit the use of too-small crates for meat and egg-producing animals.
On Tuesday, many of the same animal rights groups that have agitated for changes in pig- and chicken-raising practices used the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a California cow as a platform to reiterate their stances.
"With their chronic lack of oversight, inadequate veterinary care for animals and routine overuse of antibiotics, America's factory farms have become a breeding ground for disease and a serious public health menace," said Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy For Animals, in a statement.
California cows “are typically kept confined to hard, abrasive concrete or manure-laden dirt,” said
"After all, there is no such thing as mad tofu disease," he said.