December 20, 2016
Just in time for the holiday season, Panera Bread is giving the gift of a better life to every chicken in its supply chain.
Today, Panera—one of the largest restaurant chains in America—released a policy that will dramatically improve the lives of over 17 million chickens raised for meat, also known as broilers. Last week, Pret a Manger made a similar announcement.
"When it comes to chickens, Panera is leading the pack—not only are they doing the right thing for their business, they’re doing the right thing for animals. We commend this commitment, which is a signal to the entire restaurant sector that demand for higher welfare is not going away and now is the time to take action. We are confident that others will soon follow their example,” says Leah Garces, US Executive Director at Compassion in World Farming.
Panera has committed to implement the following changes by 2024:
- Switch to slower-growing broiler breeds with higher welfare outcomes;
- Provide birds with more space;
- Offer birds improved environments—including litter, natural light, and enrichment; and
- Require controlled atmosphere stunning.
These changes mark a big step up from conventional chicken industry standards, which allow birds to be selectively bred to grow very big, very quickly. With genetics focused on fast growth, birds often cannot support their own weight and suffer from leg deformities and weakened immune systems. Conventional birds are kept in overcrowded houses with no access to natural light, and denied enrichment, such as perches, that encourages natural behavior.
But recent corporate commitments are ushering in an era of change for the chicken industry. In committing to better chicken, Panera now joins food service giants Compass Group, Aramark, Delaware North, and Centerplate—each of which have made similar policy changes for higher welfare chicken within the past two months. This progress follows an increased focus on broiler welfare from others in the farm animal movement, including The Humane Society of the United States, The Humane League, and Mercy for Animals.
“As a restaurant serving more than 10 million people a week, we have the platform and purchasing power to encourage positive changes in animal welfare practices. We also have a responsibility to the farmers and ranchers who care for these animals. They have been essential partners over the years and we respect the investments they will need to make as we work together to find economically viable and sustainable models that lead to higher welfare birds,” said Sara Burnett, Director of Wellness and Food Policy at Panera.
Compassion in World Farming commends Panera for taking this crucial step towards a better world for chickens, and we look forward to seeing more companies follow their lead.