‘Meating’ Our Goals: Bon Appétit Management Company’s Progress Toward More Humane Sourcing

A report card on the successes and challenges of our 2012 commitment — and a road map for the future

March 21, 2016 (Palo Alto, CA) — Back in February 2012, Bon Appétit Management Company made a groundbreaking commitment to improve the welfare of animals in our food supply. We vowed to stop purchasing foie gras and crated veal, effective immediately, and by the end of 2015 to switch to cage-free precracked (a.k.a. liquid) eggs and pork from sows raised without gestation crates; and to source 25 percent of our meat, poultry and egg purchases companywide from producers that meet one of four third-party animal welfare humane certifications.

It remains the furthest-reaching commitment with the most aggressive timeline in the food service industry. We knew it was an ambitious one — we were committing to buy a supply of products that barely existed at that time, such as cage-free liquid eggs. And we are proud that for the most part, we achieved what we set out to do, and we are confident we will complete the tasks we set ourselves. Along the way, we’ve learned even more about the challenges of shifting a supply chain and changing a massive, entrenched industry’s practices, and we’ve added several new goals for our purchasing policy.

“The system of how we raise animals for food in this country is broken, from inhumane treatment to antibiotics abuse to environmental pollution,” said Fedele Bauccio, CEO and cofounder of Bon Appétit Management Company, who as a member of the Pew Commission for Industrial Farm Animal Production from 2006 to 2008 saw many of these problems firsthand. “We believe in continuing to use our purchasing power as a large, socially conscious company, to seek out and support producers of all sizes who are willing to address those issues with us.”

First, an end-of-2015 report card on Bon Appétit’s 2012 commitments:

  • Foie gras and crated veal: Done.
  • Cage-free precracked/liquid eggs: There are few industrial-scale suppliers of precracked eggs from hens that are certified cage-free. We were close to making a deal with one when avian flu hit the egg industry like a meteor, cratering the supply of all eggs. We have since found another supplier and will complete switching over by midyear.
  • Gestation crates: The vast majority of breeding sows are confined to gestation crates for their entire pregnancies. That’s almost four months spent in cages too small to even turn around in. That’s not acceptable to us. We’re proud to announce that as of December 2015, all our contracted pork will come from sows that live in group housing, in which these highly intelligent creatures are free to move and socialize. Our new supplier is the most progressive in the industrial-scale U.S. pork industry when it comes to animal welfare. And an important bonus: the pork we’re now buying is also from hogs never given antibiotics or growth promoters (including ractopamine, which causes severe animal-welfare problems).
  • 25% of meat, poultry and egg purchases from producers with third-party-certified animal-welfare practices: We fell short of this goal, by failing to get our supply of cage-free liquid eggs (see above) and because although our new pork producer is leading the industry, it is not third-party certified for its animal welfare practices. We were also hindered by the fact that meat prices have risen dramatically, making the denominator of that 25% a moving target. We will continue to focus on improving this number.

On our to-do list for the future

As far as we’ve come, we have a long way to go in ensuring that the poultry, pork, beef, eggs, and dairy we buy comes from animals that were truly permitted to enjoy the Five Freedoms of animal welfare. Developed in England in the 1960s and formalized around 1979, they are often referenced as the acceptable baseline for creating animal welfare standards. The first is “Freedom from hunger or thirst’; the second is “Freedom from discomfort”; the third, “Freedom from pain, injury or disease.” Sounds simple, right? Yet they are ignored by the vast majority of the industry, particularly Nos. 4 and 5: “Freedom to express (most) normal behavior, by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind,” and “Freedom from fear and distress, by ensuring conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering.”

“Bon Appétit Management Company has been leading the way on animal welfare issues within the food industry since its inception. Whether it’s sourcing from higher welfare suppliers, endorsing legislation tackling animal cruelty, or offering more plant-based meals, the company sets a very high bar for social responsibility.”

—Josh Balk, senior director of food policy for the Humane Society of the U.S.

Through our purchasing relationships, Bon Appétit Management Company is taking aim at many of the standard practices that violate these freedoms. There is also the issue of antibiotics abuse, which has long concerned us. Cattle, hogs, and poultry are routinely given antibiotics to make them grow faster and to prevent and treat diseases caused by the unnatural and unhealthy conditions in which they are being raised. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that as much as 80% of antibiotics sold in the United States goes to food-producing animals. This overuse has resulted in a public-health crisis, with the rise of drug-resistant superbugs in humans. Yet withholding antibiotics from sick animals can be inhumane. As the first food service company to address this issue, we have had a patchwork of different antibiotic policies for many years. We are working with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future — a group of experts on antibiotic use in food production at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health — to overhaul and update our antibiotics standards into a more cohesive and far-reaching package.

We learned from our 2012 announcement that changing entrenched industries takes far longer than we would like. But we’re determined to keep moving. As next steps, not only are we committed to serving more humane and socially responsible proteins, we’re continuing to expand our plant-based offerings.

Our current standards — and our goals:

  • Milk and yogurt: In 2003 we switched to milk and yogurt from producers who do not use artificial hormones (rBGH or rBST).*
    New: We agree with the dairy industry’s own decision to phase out the cruel practice of tail docking of dairy cows and are asking all of our suppliers to do so immediately, as well as to cease dehorning without pain management by 2026, or sooner if there are breakthroughs on resolving these issues (such as using polled genetics so that cattle are born without horns).
  • Eggs: In 2005 we switched to Certified Humane cage-free shell eggs.* We are currently completing the switch to Certified Humane cage-free precracked/liquid eggs.*
  • Poultry: Starting in 2003, we required that our chicken and turkey come from animals not given routine, nontherapeutic antibiotics.*
    Updated November 2016: in partnership with the animal welfare certification program Global Animal Partnership (GAP) we have committed to transforming the welfare of the millions of broiler chickens within our supply chain. By 2024, all of Bon Appétit’s broiler chickens will be certified under GAP’s 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating program, including: the use of approved genetics for slower-growing strains; offering enrichments including hay bales, perches, and natural light; ensuring minimum space requirements (at least a square foot per 6 lbs); and utilizing Controlled Atmosphere Stunning to render them unconscious prior to shackling. (Performance will be benchmarked annually and publicly reported.)
  • Beef: In 2007 we committed to sourcing our ground beef from cows raised without antibiotics ever (sick animals are treated and sold elsewhere), added growth hormones, or animal byproducts in their feed.* In 2012 we broadened that companywide ground-beef requirement to include certification from Humane Farm Animal Care.
    New: We are considering a revised antibiotics policy for all our contracted beef, not just ground. As with dairy, we are asking all of our beef suppliers to cease dehorning without pain management by 2026, or sooner if there are breakthroughs on resolving these issues (such as using polled genetics so that cattle are born without horns).
  • Pork: In late 2015 we switched our contracted pork to a producer that ensures sows live in group housing, not inhumane gestation crates, for most of their pregnancies.*
    New: This pork also comes from animals never given antibiotics (sick animals are treated and sold elsewhere) or ractopamine, a common growth promoter with animal-welfare side effects that has been banned in most countries. Our new supplier is also testing more humane farrowing (birth and post-natal) practices, such as allowing the sows to turn around. It long ago did away with “thumping,” the practice in which sick or injured piglets are killed by slamming their skulls into the ground. We would like to see enriched environments for all pigs as well as tail docking and castration either phased out and performed with pain management by 2026, or sooner if there are breakthroughs on resolving these issues.
  • Plant-based protein alternatives: Bon Appétit has been committed to serving plentiful vegetarian/vegan options at every meal for decades. In 2014 we partnered with Hampton Creek to offer eggless cookies and in 2015 switched our contracted mayonnaise to Hampton Creek’s eggless Just Mayo. We are actively exploring partnerships with other innovative suppliers of plant-based protein alternatives.
    New: As part of our Low Carbon Lifestyle (launched as the Low Carbon Diet in 2007 and updated in 2015), we’ve set aggressive targets for ounces-of-meat per guest per meal. We are actively tracking these numbers as well as our percentage of vegetarian options at our individual locations through the Food Standards Dashboard, so chefs can see at a glance whether their menus are both balanced and meeting the company’s goals.

“Bon Appétit Management Company has been leading the way on animal welfare issues within the food industry since its inception,” said Josh Balk, senior director of food policy for the Humane Society of the U.S. “Whether it’s sourcing from more humane suppliers, endorsing legislation tackling animal cruelty, or offering more plant-based meals, the company sets a very high bar for social responsibility.”

The meat, egg, and dairy industries are by nature slow moving, whether for ending abuses that could be eliminated in the near term, or for making infrastructure changes that require time and capital to overhaul their physical facilities as well as to breed animals that can tolerate and thrive in the new environments (such as group housing for sows). By listing which current standard practices violate the Five Freedoms and setting a time frame for our suppliers to phase them out, we hope to send a clear message: We expect the industry to keep moving toward more humane treatment of farm animals in this country. Our goals remain ambitious ones, but we will continue to be transparent about what we achieve and if necessary, about why we might fall short of our targets. We believe that commitments are meaningless without accountability.

 

*We are proud to be the first food service company to have made this commitment.

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About Bon Appétit Management Company  

Bon Appétit Management Company is an on-site restaurant company operating 650-plus cafés in 31 states for corporations, universities, and specialty venues, including at Google, eBay, University of Pennsylvania, and the Getty Center. Bon Appétit food is cooked from scratch, including sauces, stocks, and soups. A pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies, Bon Appétit has developed programs addressing local purchasing, the overuse of antibiotics, sustainable seafood, the food and climate change connection, humanely raised meat and eggs, and farmworker rights. It has received numerous awards for its work, from organizations including the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the James Beard Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Seafood Choices Alliance, and The Humane Society of the United States.

Media contact: Bonnie Powell, bonnie.powell@bamco.com, 650.621.0871.