McDonald's Works to Take Animal Cruelty off the Menu
The timing coincided with McDonald's relaunch of its popular McRib sandwich, adding an extremely unappetizing PR angle to the event.
Confining breeding sows to gestation crates where they can't move for their entire lives is inhumane in itself, but the HSUS also pointed out that Smithfield had engaged in many other torturous practices. For example, the HSUS claimed Smithfield subjected animals to castration, tail-trimming, and tooth extraction without painkillers.
Plenty of other fast food chains have shown it's possible to eradicate these painful practices from their supply chains -- or at the very least make major progress in removing it. Wendy's (WEN), Sonic (SONC), Harris Teeter, Quiznos, and Safeway (SWY) have all been lauded by the HSUS for having made great strides to avoid pork suppliers that abuse their animals.
Smithfield, meanwhile, has announced its own plans to end inhumane treatment of its pigs by 2017.
Putting Mercy on the Menu
Moving from gestation stalls to better alternatives will improve the welfare of sows and I'm pleased to see McDonald's working with its suppliers toward that end. It takes a thorough plan to address the training of animal handlers, proper feeding systems, and the significant financial investment and logistics involved with such a big change. I'm optimistic about this announcement.
Putting the 'Happy' Back in McDonald's Meals
Last but not least, haven't we got good, old-fashioned American ingenuity on our side? At one time, factory farming may have seemed "innovative" as our culture ramped up food production, but there's no reason America's innovative spirit can't be applied to use better, more humane ways to raise animals with respect and as little pain and suffering as possible.
Now that McDonald's is on the case, pork production should be on a far more positive path going forward.
Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Whole Foods Market. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of McDonald's, Whole Foods Market, and Chipotle Mexican Grill.