There are more than a few improvements McDonald’s could make to better the treatment of its customers and workers, of the animals that provide the meat it sells and of the environment. On Monday, after years of internal and external pressure, the company announced a laudable course of action regarding the sows (female pigs) in their supply chain: McDonald’s is requiring, by May, that its suppliers of pork provide plans for phasing out gestation crates. Once those plans are delivered, says Bob Langert, the company’s vice president of sustainability, McDonald’s will create a timetable to end the use of gestation crates in its supply chain. “Considering that 90 percent [of the pregnant sows] in the United States are in gestation stalls, this is a huge issue,” he says, and he’s right.
This is important for the animals and for the entire meat-selling industry. Let’s start with the sows: a gestation crate is an individual metal stall so small that the sow cannot turn around; most sows spend not only their pregnancies in crates, but most of their lives. For humans, this would qualify as “cruel and unusual punishment,” and even if you believe that pigs are somehow “inferior,” it’s hard to rationalize gestation crates once you see what they look like. (For the record, defenders of the system suggest that crates prevent sows from fighting in group pens. There’s no space to argue that here, but it’s nonsense.)
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The fact that Mickey D’s may be forced to raise prices because of higher commodity costs isn’t entirely bad news; but it’s not entirely good either.
In a fair world, anything that discourages people from eating at McDonald’s could be seen as wonderful. Reflecting the true cost of a cheeseburger – one that includes the health care costs that appear down the road, or the environmental costs that few people seem concerned about – would be a good thing. By discouraging the consumption of cheeseburgers, higher prices would encourage better health and less environmental damage.
By Raj Patel
[Raj Patel – an activist, academic and author of “Stuffed and Starved” and the international bestseller “The Value of Nothing” – exposes Ronald McDonald as an exploitative fraud. His site: www.rajpatel.org – mb]
Apparently, it’s my fault. I’ve got a very young son who will, by the time he comes of age, may well have seen 18 million advertisements. Those ads will shape and mould him into a consumer. Despite my best efforts, love, attention, and presenting of alternatives, the odds are high that he’ll still find, as older foodies than I have found with their children – to their chagrin – that a solitary bucket of KFC is more desirable than a healthy meal shared with friends.
But it’ll be my fault because, apparently, it’s lax parents who are to blame for epidemic levels of diabetes, not the food industry’s marketing billions. That, at least, is what the fast food industry would like to pretend. But it wasn’t always thus. Continue reading