Does Burger King’s Promise of Cage-Free Pork, Eggs Mean Big Business For Jamaica Broilers?

The 2nd Largest Fast Food in the United States Chain Pledges More Humane Food Standards

Animal rights groups are reportedly happy with Burger King’s announcement that by 2017 all of its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and pigs. Burger King which is the second largest fast food chain in the United States, pledges to provide food of higher standards in 5 years. NPR reports that they are the first fast food chain to put a firm deadline on such a promise.

NPR also reports that ’McDonalds, in the EU, already gets 100 percent of its eggs from free-range chickens.’

Free Range Chickens - Chicken, Tender Chicken!

Burger King which is privately owned plans to re-list on the New York Stock Exchange soon. The Washington Times reports;

Burger King announced its move just weeks after revealing that it would soon return to the New York Stock Exchange to trade its shares publicly. The last time the company’s shares were available for public sale was in 2010, when investment firm 3G Capital took it private for $3.3 billion. The company has announced an extensive revamping of its menu and a remodeling of its more than 12,000 outlets worldwide amid news that it had fallen to third place behind Wendy’s in the fast-food hierarchy.

Significant Costs, Increased Hen Mortality

However, not everyone is impressed with this move. The critics have stated, that while headline-grabbing, there are significant implications; those to the health of the employees, the life-span of the birds (which reportedly cluster and suffocate when they are allowed to roam free), and also the resulting increased costs to the final consumer. Free-range chickens are expected to cost more.

Additionally, as the Washington Times states, “You’re also likely to see an increase in hen mortality,” … “One of the reasons that the cage systems have been developed is to protect hens from pecking each other.”

As it relates to costs CNN Money reports

The United Egg Producers, an industry trade group, says that cage-free eggs make up only 5% of the U.S. market, and have some environmental downsides, including a larger “carbon footprint” because the hens require more water, acreage and cropland than caged chickens.

It said uncaged chickens can have more health problems and a shorter lifespan than those that are caged.

It also said that cage-free eggs typically have a retail cost more than triple that of traditional eggs — $1.18 for eggs from caged hens compared to an average of $3.59 for cage-free eggs. A 2009 UEP study found that banning cages for hen-laying eggs would raise production costs by 25%, or $2.7 billion annually.

BIG Local Demand for Cage Free Produce?

So what will this mean for local demand? How will it impact the sales and cost of goods? USA Today reports;

The decision by Burger King, which uses hundreds of millions of eggs and tens of millions of pounds of pork annually, could have huge repercussions in the egg and pork supply business as a huge new market has opened for humanely raised food animals. Already 9% of the company’s eggs and 20% of its pork are cage-free.

The Miami-based company has been increasing its use of cage-free eggs and pork as producers have become better able to meet demand, said Jonathan Fitzpatrick, chief brand and operations officer. He said the decision is part of the company’s social responsibility policy.

Juxtaposed with our local situation, this could eventually put Jamaica Broilers, the visible pioneer in the cage-free market in a favorable position. Late last year (December 2011), we highlighted a landmark move by Jamaica Broilers to provide free-range chickens. Once Burger King applies this decision locally they would have already been in a comfortable position to meet such a demand.

As we said in that same story, Jamaica Broilers is opening unprecedented doors for themselves.  Jamaica Broilers is currently “the only regional company outside the US and Canada to have a farm that has been audited by the Global Animal Partnership (GAP).” And while we’re not sure what the chicken export market is like, if there was ever a need for birds to be exported to the United States or Canada, it wouldn’t be hard to figure out which company in the Caribbean would be most sought after to meet the demand.

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