For many years, the Humane Society of the United States has engaged major food companies on issues of animal welfare. As a result, most companies have now promised to eliminate some or all of the abusive practices common to industrialized farm animal production. But are companies actually keeping their promises? To answer this question, HSUS developed the Food Industry Scorecard, a year-long audit conducted of roughly 100 major food companies designed to gauge their progress.
The survey covered three pressing concerns: Laying hens confined in cages, pigs confined in gestation crates, and broiler chickens suffering in poultry production. It also included a question about plant-based meal options, since diversifying protein in the food industry reduces the demand for factory-farmed products.
And the results are in: Bon Appétit Management Company earned an A+… and we were the only food service company to do so! We ranked #1 of food management companies and #3 overall, behind Whole Foods Market and Chipotle Mexican Grill (For the back story, see below.)
“All animals need leaders to step up and raise the bar for what is possible. Bon Appétit never wavers in their commitment to do just that and inspire the food service industry with transformational advancements. We are proud of the work they do and the impact they have every day for animals,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society.
We’re not going to rest on our laurels though. Plans are already underway to create an even more humane supply chain.
TALKING ABOUT FOOD: “THE BEST FOOD SERVICE MANAGEMENT COMPANY BY FAR”
“Bon Appétit ranked as the best food service management company by far.”
That’s a great line to start the day with! I was supposed to be on a turkey farm but was home in my own bed instead. Grounded from travel by coronavirus-related concerns, I postponed a planned trip to visit our main turkey supplier to talk about animal welfare issues. Turns out, I’d be talking about the treatment of farm animals anyway.
Yes, I’m one of those people who sleep with my phone by my bed, and the first thing I do when I open my eyes is roll over and check for messages. With no one to high five that early in the morning, I just grinned to myself after I saw this from Josh Balk, vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society of the United States:
Maisie! We just released our Food Industry Scorecard. …BAMCO ranked as the #1 food management company, with an A+ grade! (And one of only four companies with an A+)
You can view the Scorecard report in its entirety here, and your specific assessment here. … Seriously, you are changing the world. It’s real.
To be honest, this wasn’t a total surprise. As Purchasing Manager Curt McClusick and I filled out the survey on which the scorecard was based, I knew we were going to rate well. We’ve been working hard at alleviating animal suffering through our careful purchasing commitments for 15 years. As the HSUS report says, “Bon Appétit Management Company was one of the first major food service management companies to adopt meaningful animal welfare policies.”
Our journey started in 2005 when a student asked Yvonne Matteson (then a general manager, now a district manager) if we could get cage-free eggs for his café. Yvonne passed along the question, but I was at a loss. I’d never even heard the term “cage free” much less did I know how to get such eggs. (Fun fact: That student was David Benzaquen, who later went on to found PlantBased Solutions, a marketing consultancy aimed at plant-based product companies, and now serves as CEO of Ocean Hugger Foods, which makes plant-based seafood alternatives.)
Who did I connect with to learn about cages and chickens? None other than a young HSUS staffer, Josh Balk. Josh mailed me a VHS tape (yep, it was that long ago) showing industrial egg production. I wasn’t actually sure I wanted to watch it. I said to then–Director of Culinary Support & Development Marc Zammit, “I’m not sure I care about chickens. It’s not like they’re puppies.” A few minutes into seeing these helpless creatures crammed into barren battery cages, I turned to Marc and exclaimed “I care about chickens!” And our commitment to animal welfare was born.
Since then we’ve become the first to extend our policy to cage-free liquid eggs — and we are still the only food service company who has kept that commitment. We were first to commit to gestation crate-free pork and have reduced the days sows in our supply chain spend in crates more than any other company. We’re the only food service company with any stance on beef production at all and are actively looking at ways to expand our commitment to Certified Humane ground beef to include more cuts of beef.
Another way to improve animal welfare is to reduce the need for crowding animals by reducing the number of animals raised for food.
Enter “plant-forward” — a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes and celebrates, but is not limited to, plant-based foods. Amongst other things, our approach includes tracking and decreasing our spending on meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, and eggs. Fewer animals needed = better for the planet and better for the health of our guests. And we do get points on the HSUS scorecard for this commitment, too. Points aren’t really the point, though. The reason we make these commitments and pay more for these products is because we believe a better food system is possible. A food system that is better for the environment, creates good jobs for people, and causes less suffering all around. We believe we can change the world through our actions. And so does Josh.