When California’s Proposition 12 passed by 63% in 2018, many members of Bon Appétit’s corporate team gave a collective cheer. Proposition 12 strengthens space requirements for farm animals and bans the sale of meat in the state produced under conditions that violate these standards, including the use of cruel gestation crates for sows. We had been working since 2012 to secure pork produced without unnecessary reliance on gestation crate confinement systems, requiring our suppliers to transition to higher-welfare group housing systems by 2016. Seeing a precedent set in California inspired a new vision for us: In 2019 we notified our suppliers that we’d expect to fully eliminate gestation crates by the end of 2021 — not just for our California supply but nationwide.
The pork industry hasn’t collectively joined in on our celebration of this impending shift. Much has been made of the cost increases and possible contraction of supply. Lawsuits have been filed and, in the words of the National Pork Producers’ Council President, “the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (Farm Bureau) have been fighting tooth and nail against Prop. 12.”
Still, we at Bon Appétit, along with our partners at the Clemens Food Group, knew this was the right thing to do.
Despite our commitment, the journey to full elimination of gestation crates for our nationwide supply has been challenging. The COVID-19 pandemic brought on unexpected barriers but we persisted, receiving accolades for our determination in the 2021 Quit Stalling Report by World Animal Protection. A case study in the report titled “Bon Appétit Stands Firm on Sow Welfare Despite Unprecedented Challenges,” (see page 7) illuminates how we overcame barriers brought on by the pandemic to continue pursuing our commitment to have an entirely gestation crate-free pork supply.
Now, with California legislation going into effect on January 1, 2022, we’re pleased to say we’re more than ready to meet the standard and are in the process of rolling out a pork supply that meets the same welfare standards nationwide.
This week, Chief Strategy and Brand Officer Maisie Ganzler, who leads Bon Appétit’s sustainability initiatives, wrote a letter to California’s Department of Food and Agriculture Animal Care program commending the institution for correcting previous draft regulations stating that Proposition 12 “does not directly impact human health and welfare of California residents” and assuring regulators that Bon Appetit is ready for Proposition 12. We’re proving that the industry can make this shift if they try. Once again, we’re signaling to our peer companies and to lawmakers that a more sustainable food system is possible.
Read Maisie’s letter below…
December 13, 2021
Dr. Elizabeth Cox
Department of Food and Agriculture Animal Care Program
1220 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Dr. Cox:
I’m writing on behalf of California-based Bon Appetit Management Company. We’re an on-site restaurant company that does full food-service management for corporations, universities, museums, and specialty venues. We operate more than 1,000 cafés in 33 states.
We were proud to be the first major food company to endorse the Proposition 12 initiative in 2018, and we weren’t surprised it passed with 63% support. We’ve been working with our suppliers for more than two years and have been assured that they are able to offer us Proposition 12-compliant products when the law goes fully into effect on January 1, 2022.
Creating a more humane, healthy, and safe food system has been a core of who we’ve been as a company since our founding in 1987, and that includes improving the lives of farm animals.
Our company has long understood that giving animals more space and getting them out of cruel, inhumane cages not only improves their lives; it also increases public health and food safety and creates better working conditions for those raising the animals.
We commend CDFA for correcting the serious inaccurate statements contained in the previous draft regulations initial statement of reasons (page 141) and notice (page 6). These both falsely say that Proposition 12 “does not directly impact human health and welfare of California residents.” We wrote regarding our concern in June 2021, and we thank you for updating this language in the most recent draft regulations.
Chief Strategy & Brand Officer