Burger King Chicken Fries don’t have to come with a side of guilt anymore — well, okay, not as much guilt. The chain is adopting new chicken-welfare standards to ensure the poultry it buys isn’t from suppliers that abuse animals. The commitment brings the nation’s fourth-largest chain in line with the welfare policies followed by Starbucks, Panera Bread, and (as of January) Chipotle, but very few others in the fast-food world.
The Whopper maker’s owner, Restaurant Brands International, is giving itself seven years to source all its chicken from farms that adhere to standards set forth by the Global Animal Partnership, the same organization that certifies that Whole Foods’ meat and poultry are humanely raised. Burger King pledges to buy from farms where birds have more room, access to light, and clean living conditions, and aren’t still conscious during slaughter (an unfortunately very real problem). Third-party auditors will ensure compliance.
Mercy for Animals is partnering with BK on the pledge. The standards might not sound like the chain is going animal-rights wild, but Mercy argues broilers are “among the most abused animals on the planet.” They’re bred to grow unnaturally large super fast, which can make mere movement an ordeal. On top of that are the generally awful living conditions associated with modern factory farming: “Continual contact with wet litter causes extreme feather loss and painful sores on the chickens’ bodies and feet,” Mercy said in a release praising Burger King’s commitment. “Even breathing can be painful, as the air around the birds is acrid with ammonia from the stench of excrement.” The nonprofit says that if fully implemented according to GAP’s protocols, the new guidelines will “reduce the suffering of millions of chickens each year.”