Going Where No Food Service Company Has Dared to Go Before

Today — and not for the first time — Bon Appétit Management Company is making history in the food service industry.

Aaron Miller of Miller Livestock in Ohio, a Bon Appétit Farm to Fork partner and the first Food Alliance-certified livestock farm in Ohio. Photo by Sarah Piper/BAMCO Foundation

In a joint announcement with The Humane Society of the United States, we are vowing to stop serving all pork produced using the cruel and inhumane practice of gestation crates and all eggs, including “liquid” ones (those removed from their shells), from hens confined to battery cages by 2015.

This is the next step on the path we’ve been on since 2003, when we said ‘no’ to antibiotics in feed or water for chicken (and later, turkey). Two years after that, we vowed that our hamburgers had to come from cows not given antibiotics routinely or growth hormones ever and that all of our shell eggs had to be Certified Humane.

We serve more than 3 million pounds of pork (including 800,000 pounds of bacon alone) and 1.75 million pounds of liquid eggs, the equivalent of about 11 million shell eggs. Finding more humane sources for those items is not going to be easy: “The products we need aren’t produced in the quantities we need,” my colleague Helene York, director of strategic sourcing and research, writes in a guest post today for Civil Eats. So why are we doing it? “We’re convinced of one thing: the best chance for change is to stop waiting for everyone else to make the first move.”

We are not only raising the minimum standards for what we will buy; we are also making a commitment that by 2015, at least 25 percent of all our meat, poultry, and eggs will meet the highest animal welfare standards, as verified by the independent third parties Animal Welfare Approved, Food Alliance, Humane Farm Animal Care, or Global Animal Partnership. These four groups don’t just ban gestation crates and battery cages, they prohibit routine antibiotics and all hormones, and reward producers for allowing animals to engage in their natural behaviors.

“Today’s announcement by Bon Appétit is yet another benchmark for others in the food service sector to strive to reach,” writes Wayne Pacelle, President of The Humane Society, in a blog post today. “The company is demonstrating that being socially responsible is not a bromide or a slogan, but an operational principle.”

Indeed it is. That’s why we’ve set defined deadlines and defined goals. As Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio said angrily to me last week, when I asked what would happen if we couldn’t locate enough humane pork suppliers by 2015 to meet our supply needs: “Then we’ll menu differently — we’ll serve more turkey sandwiches! I’m not waiting for these guys anymore.”

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