Concerns about chicken welfare practices at McDonald’s have prompted a leading pension fund trustee to fire off a warning letter to the multinational.
The letter, from Thomas P DiNapoli, trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, is over the potential financial and reputational risks associated with the company’s welfare practices. The Fund holds shares of an approximate market value of $ 343m in McDonald’s stock.
In the letter, obtained and published by Bloomberg, Mr DiNapoli said that while McDonald’s announcement last year around updating its chicken welfare policy was commendable, the policy did not align with widely accepted best practices supported by science and rigorous research, and lagged behind its competitors.
High animal welfare standards can generate a number of business benefits, including sustaining and enhancing profitability and sales, as customers have become increasingly concerned about animal welfare and food safety
Thomas P DiNapoli, trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund
Written to McDonald’s Corporation Chief Executive Officer and President Stephen Easterbrook and the chairman of the board Enrique Hernandez Jr, the letter says the company had not followed competitors, such as Burger King, Subway and 80 other major food companies in mandating that their chicken suppliers meet the standards recommended by the RSPCA or Global Animal Partnership by 2024.
“Although these standards are important from an animal welfare perspective, they also make business sake. High animal welfare standards can generate a number of business benefits, including sustaining and enhancing profitability and sales, as customers have become increasingly concerned about animal welfare and food safety.”
Mr DiNapoli added that the National Chicken Council had recently found that consumers had become significantly more concerned about food safety when considering purchasing chicken and would be more likely to purchase chicken if their concerns were addressed.
The comments follow a media campaign in the US led by the Humane Society of the United States, calling for a move to more humane breeds and changes to slaughter practices.
McDonald’s said the company had announced a new policy last autumn establishing 8 global commitments, “which will measurably improve chicken welfare across our supply chain”. These include “requiring chickens be raised in housing environments that promote natural behaviours, implementing on-farm monitoring systems to gather key welfare indicators, establishing third party audits and the creation of an independent Global Sustainability Advisory Council.”