Burger King Corporation, the second largest fast-food chain with 11,350 restaurants in all 50 states and 58 countries, has adopted guidelines for the humane handling of food animals. In addition, the company recently petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fully and actively enforce the federal Humane Slaughter Act.

The new guidelines will require suppliers to adhere to strict standards in the care, housing, transport and slaughter of cattle, swine and poultry. Burger King Corporation says it will enforce the new guidelines via a series of announced and unannounced audits at suppliers' facilities. Suppliers who do not meet Burger King Corporation's animal handling standards will face disciplinary action.

John Dasburg, president of Burger King Corporation, said that he asked the Burger King Corporation Animal Well-being Advisory Council to work with a team of Burger King Corporation executives to make specific recommendations on how the company can ensure that its suppliers are handling food animals as humanely as possible. The Council is comprised of nationally and internationally recognized experts in the field, including Dr. Temple Grandin, Colorado State University; Dr. Janice Swanson, Kansas State University; and Dr. David Fraser, The University of British Columbia.

In its petition to USDA, Burger King Corporation reported that independent members of its own Animal Well-being Advisory Council expressed significant concerns over the lack of enforcement of the federal law. For example, Dr. Temple Grandin, a leading authority in animal handling, conducted slaughterhouse surveys in 1996 and concluded that only about 25 percent of USDA inspectors enforce the Act. Dr. Grandin believes that current enforcement is still inadequate.

"Burger King Corporation is a company committed to the humane treatment of food animals used for our products," says Mr. Dasburg. "Our new guidelines and audits are the right thing to do."

Those guidelines include:

  • Burger King Corporation is establishing animal handling verification guidelines for all cattle and swine slaughterhouses based on the American Meat Institute's (AMI) Audit Program to assure compliance with these guidelines. BKC is also establishing animal handling verification guidelines for all poultry slaughterhouses based on the National Chicken Council's (NCC) guidelines
  • Burger King Corporation will adopt, and in some cases exceed, the United Egg Producers (UEP) Scientific Advisory Committee's recommended guidelines for laying hens. These recommendations clarify the UEP producer guidelines in four main areas including cage space per bird, forced molting, air quality and beak trimming.
  • Burger King Corporation already prohibits its beef suppliers from using meat from non-ambulatory cattle, cattle that are afflicted with advanced ocular neoplasia or cattle that are extremely emaciated.
  • The company requires that all dehorning and castration of animals be accomplished before their arrival at stocking operations or feedlots and the animals must be healed fully prior to transport to the lot or stocking operation. Further, castration of animals must be done in accordance with generally accepted scientific and medical practices.
  • In addition, Burger King Corporation will encourage and support the development of a body of scientific knowledge around the handling of gestating sows. This effort may include identifying and studying pork production facilities that have already instituted alternative procedures for the handling and care of gestating sows.
  • Burger King Corporation will also monitor developments in the areas of genetics, thermal comfort of animals, air quality of animals in enclosed environments, emergency procedures for failure of automated systems used in the production of food animals, on-farm euthanasia methods and improving the manner by which animals are transported. The company will encourage the adoption of appropriate, science-based improvements in any of these areas if they promise to result in more humane conditions for food animals.