Panera makes major move on chicken welfare
Panera Bread gave a gift to the globe's livestock chickens this week when it became one of the largest foodservice chains to commit to improving the welfare of birds raised for their meat, known as broiler chickens, in its supply chain, according to a news release.
The move was met with great enthusiasm by animal welfare groups, including World Animal Protection, which applauded the chain's leadership by its adoption of animal welfare measures, including using slower-growing chicken breeds, providing birds with more space, and offering improved living environments with natural lighting and enrichments.
"We applaud Panera Bread for this industry-leading commitment to give chickens better lives," World Animal Protection U.S. Executive Director Priscilla Ma said in the news release. "We're honored to have had the opportunity to work with the company in identifying opportunities to improve animal welfare practices, and the steps Panera is taking will have a significant positive impact for chickens. We echo Panera’s call to the wider food industry to work together to bring about sustainable change that chickens need and consumers want."
Panera joins other foodservice brands like Pret A Manger, Compass Group USA, Aramark, and even the nation's fourth-largest poultry producer, Perdue Farms, which committed to improve broiler chickens welfare in the last year.
About 40 billion of the 60 billion broiler hens raised each year nationally are believed to live in dark, dirty, overcrowded conditions that prevent them from moving much. Many live with lifelong pain from lameness, unnatural growth practices and skin abrasions and burns from being forced to lay motionless in dirty, wet litter.
Increasing consumer demand for change has led World Animal Protection to call on businesses that sell and serve chicken to improve the animals' conditions.
"Panera is implementing the far-reaching change for chickens that we're hoping for from the food industry at large," said Ma. "Through the cage-free egg movement, consumers have shown that animal welfare is important to them in their purchasing decisions, and today's businesses must take this into account. Importantly, Panera has also committed to reporting publicly on its progress in implementing its animal welfare commitments, and we look forward to following the company's progress."