By Taylor Ford
Golden arches tainted with blood. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the "Headquarters of Cruelty." Dozens of protesters. Horrified passersby.
These spectacles are what McDonald's employees saw outside their office windows during the company's annual shareholder meeting at its Chicago headquarters in May 2018. As part of a massive coalition campaign, animal advocates staged stunts and protests on the street to raise concerns about animal cruelty in the McDonald's supply chain, drawing the public's attention and troubling the company's executives.
This year, McDonald's broke with its longstanding tradition of holding its annual shareholder meeting in Chicago, instead electing to meet in the security of a hotel at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport — perhaps because it couldn't handle the pressure from protesters advocating for animals and other ethical issues. By moving its shareholder meeting to a more exclusive location, McDonald's made one thing clear: It wants to keep its shareholders far away from its loudest critics.
Unfortunately for McDonald's, simply moving its meeting isn't enough to hide the truth from its investors. McDonald's shareholders are paying attention to animal welfare issues — and they are eager to hold the company accountable to higher standards.
For example, last August, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which at the time held more than $300 million in McDonald's stock, sent McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook a warning about the company's treatment of chickens. DiNapoli called on McDonald's to "establish and maintain responsible animal welfare practices," as recommended by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Global Animal Partnership, by 2024.
Some of these practices include switching to slower-growing breeds of birds, reducing stocking density to a maximum of six pounds per square foot and providing environmental enrichments to allow for natural behavior.
DiNapoli stated that, "Although these standards are important from an animal welfare perspective, they also make business sense." As DiNapoli and other investors understand, these improvements would address mounting consumer concerns about where their food comes from, and would dramatically reduce the suffering of chickens raised for McDonald's menu items.
This relief could not come soon enough. For the intelligent, sensitive chickens destined to be McNuggets and other menu items, their lives are full of abuse and suffering and are devoid of natural behavior.
Today, chickens are bred to grow four times faster and considerably larger than in the 1950s, when industrial chicken production was just beginning. In the span of just 48 days — a tiny fraction of their natural lifespan — baby chickens reach a gargantuan size. The issue is so severe that if humans grew at a rate similar to McDonald's chickens, we would weigh 660 pounds at just two months old. Mere infants.
This rapid growth makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for many chickens to walk. Additionally, these chickens are constrained to overcrowded, dark, unnatural and barren barns, causing painful conditions, including horrifying ammonia burns on their chest and legs from the waste and sickness permeating the space. These are the brutal conditions that make up the tens of millions of chickens' lives in McDonald's supply chain.
Despite this grim existence, chickens raised for meat are afforded virtually no legal protections. Until recently, very little progress had been made on their behalf.
Luckily, pressure from investors, consumers and nonprofits is bringing new momentum to the fight for change. Recent studies indicate that even despite potential increased costs, consumers want animals to be treated better. One study found that nearly eight out of 10 Americans believe food companies should improve their chicken welfare standards.
This issue is even on the radar of the National Chicken Council, a trade association that represents the interests of the U.S. chicken industry. A study conducted in 2018 by the trade group found that three-quarters of consumers are concerned about how chickens are raised for meat. When concerned citizens bring animal welfare improvements to the ballot, voters rush to support them. Residents of Massachusetts and California overwhelmingly voted to pass strong bills to ban the extreme confinement of animals raised for food.
McDonald's stands out in its refusal to join this momentum, but it hasn't always been the laggard. In 2015, animal protection organizations praised McDonald's commitment to end its support for battery cage farms and transition its egg supply to 100 percent cage-free.
Only three years later, however, rather than take a bold step forward, McDonald's has released a vague and misleading statement that falls far short of what its competitors are doing. More than 130 food companies have all committed to policies that detail concrete improvements for chickens.
In response to McDonald's lack of action, six organizations — Mercy for Animals, the Humane League, Compassion in World Farming, Compassion Over Killing, World Animal Protection and Animal Equality — set their targets on the fast food giant last year and launched a public campaign that kicked off with a full-page ad in The New York Times.
Since this launch, activists have staged dozens of protests nationwide, held regular events outside McDonald's headquarters in Chicago, and unleashed an onslaught of ad campaigns that include a billboard in Times Square and TV ads saturating the Chicago market. A petition targeting McDonald's has now gathered over 300,000 signatures from concerned consumers, but has yet to receive one response from McDonald's.
McDonald's CEO Easterbrook would be wise to get ahead of this issue before more shareholders and critical investors raise their concerns. They know — as do McDonald's own customers — that big chicken is bad business.
Taylor Ford is director of campaigns for The Humane League, an international nonprofit ending the abuse of animals worldwide. The Humane League has been ranked "Best in America" by the Independent Charities of America and named a "Top Charity" by the charity navigator Animal Charity Evaluators. Follow the Humane League on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to take action for animals and make a difference.
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By Lena Brook
Less than two weeks ago, JBS USA, one of our country's largest meat processors, announced a high-risk recall of nearly 7 million pounds of its raw beef, over concerns it may be contaminated with Salmonella Newport. Nearly 60 patients in 16 states have so far been made sick. This recent outbreak of infections tied to contaminated ground beef is especially worrisome because S. Newport is a strain of Salmonella that has often been resistant to antibiotics. It may also be the largest beef recall in history for Salmonella.
Since Americans love their burgers, that means a lot of us may be at risk: Recent research suggests we eat three hamburgers a week, on average—nearly 50 billion burgers per year for the entire country. Fast food burger chains are some of the largest beef buyers in the U.S. (McDonald's is actually the biggest beef purchaser in the world). This buying power gives burger companies a singular ability to send a powerful message to beef producers: it's time to stop using medically important antibiotics routinely on animals that are not sick.
By continuing to use antibiotics routinely on farms, beef producers contribute to the rise and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria like this type of Salmonella, which cause infections that are difficult or sometimes impossible to treat. In fact, more medically-important antibiotics are sold for use on cows than any other farm animal sector.
Which is why for this fourth annual edition of our Chain Reaction report and antibiotics scorecard, which grades fast food restaurants on their antibiotics policies and practices, NRDC and our allies decided to shine a spotlight on where much work remains: beef. This year, for the first time, we graded the top 25 burger restaurants in the U.S. And the results weren't pretty: all but 3 got an F.
Unfortunately, our report shows most burger companies aren't yet using their market influence to advance antibiotic stewardship. Of the top 25 burger restaurant chains in the U.S. only two leaders stand out: New York's beloved Shake Shack and Florida-based BurgerFi. These two companies source beef raised entirely without antibiotics. Given their growth and success in recent years, customers seem to be rewarding these companies for their good food policies.
Trailing behind these two new generation burger chains, Wendy's squeaked in with a "D-" because the company made a modest pledge last winter to reduce one antibiotic in a small portion of its beef supply. The remaining 22 chains—including giants like McDonald's and Burger King—received "F" grades because they lack any time-bound, publicly available policy to restrict antibiotic use in their beef supply chains.
The world's leading authorities on public health agree that ending the overuse of antibiotics in beef production and across all livestock sectors is critical to keeping these drugs working when sick people (and sick animals) need them. Indeed, the World Health Organization sounded this alarm in its 2017 guidelines on the use of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals, as have a dozen other medical groups.
Industry analysts advise that companies to stay ahead of consumer concerns, and consumers are worried about antibiotic use in meat. Chick-fil-A, McDonald's, Subway, KFC and over a dozen restaurant chains did exactly this when they adopted (and in many cases, implemented) meaningful restrictions on antibiotics in their chicken supplies in recent years.
Right now, many burger chains are putting burger lovers in a bind. If they want to eat meat raised with responsible antibiotic use practices, chicken is the best choice at many mainstream chains. But if we are to make headway on antibiotic resistance crisis, the beef (and pork) industry must be part of the solution.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
More than a third of Americans eat fast food on any given day.
That's the key finding of a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) that tracked the fast food consumption of Americans between 2013 and 2016.
"On any given day in the United States, an estimated 36.6 percent or approximately 84.8 million adults consume fast food," report first author and CDC statistician Cheryl Fryar told CNN.
Registered dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Liz Weinandy, who was not involved in the report, said that adults underestimate the risks posed by fast food, which is typically high in fat, calories, salt and sugar but low in essential nutrients.
"It is funny, when we see news clips of a shark swimming near a beach, it scares us into not going near that beach. However, what we should be scared of is double cheeseburgers, French fries and large amounts of sugary beverages," Weinandy told CNN.
Fryar said her team conducted the research because of the supersized role that fast food has come to play in U.S. eating habits.
"We focused on fast food for this report because fast food has played an important role in the American diet in recent decades," she said. "Fast food has been associated with poor diet and increased risk of obesity."
Overall, the study found that percentage of fast-food-eating adults decreased with age, with 44.9 percent of adults aged 20 to 39 indulging, 37.7 percent of adults 40 to 59 eating the stuff and only 24.1. percent of adults aged 60 or more chowing down on any given day. More men consumed fast food than women, for a difference of 37.9 percent vs. 35.4 percent.
A breakdown of adult fast food consumption by age and sex.CDC NCHS
One surprising finding was that fast food consumption actually increased with income. Only 31.7 percent of lower-income Americans, defined as those living on an income equal or less than 130 percent of the national poverty level, ate fast food on a given day compared to 36.4 percent of middle income Americans and 42 percent of higher income Americans.
"That connection or correlation is opposite of what I perhaps would have expected," Director of Clinical Research at the Global Obesity Prevention Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Dr. Lawrence Cheskin told CNN. "But we need these kinds of studies and these kinds of facts and statistics to get a better understanding of what drives the use of foods that, as a nutrition expert I would say, are not your first choice for a variety of reasons."
A breakdown of adult fast food consumption by income level, based on the federal poverty level (FPL) and sexCDC NCHS
When it came to race and ethnicity, the breakdown of fast-food consumption on any given day was as follows:
- Non-Hispanic black adults: 42.4 percent
- Non-Hispanic white adults: 37.6 percent
- Hispanic adults: 35.5 percent
- Non-Hispanic Asian Adults: 30.6 percent
The number of U.S. children eating fast food is on the rise.
That is the finding of a University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity study published this month.
The study consisted of three online surveys conducted in 2010, 2013 and 2016 asking parents whether, in the past week, they had bought food for their children at one of the nation's top fast-food chains: McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's or Subway.
The number who answered "yes" rose steadily over the course of the three surveys, from 79 percent in 2010 to 83 percent in 2013 to a whopping 91 percent in 2016.
Despite the fact that many restaurant chains have added healthier drink and side options to kids' meals since 2010, the study found that the percentage of children who received a healthier drink option as part of their kids' meal remained steady at around 59 percent from 2010 to 2016, while the percentage who received a healthier side option actually decreased from 67 percent in 2013 to 50 percent in 2016.
Lead study author and director of marketing initiatives for the Rudd Center Jennifer Harris said the study indicated restaurants needed to do more to promote healthier menu options.
"While most fast-food restaurants do have healthier kids' meal drinks and sides available, many do little to make parents aware of the healthier options or to encourage parents to choose the healthier options instead of unhealthy ones. If restaurants are serious about children's health, they will make the healthiest choice the easiest choice for parents and the most appealing choice for children," Harris said in a UConn press release published by ScienceDaily.
Parents surveyed liked the idea of healthier meals and said that they would be more likely to visit restaurants that offered them. However, for each of the top four restaurants besides Subway, the parents' main reason for taking their children there was not health, but cost, convenience and the child's own preferences.
"We know that fast food offers parents a convenient, affordable option for feeding their families. But restaurants have a responsibility to make these affordable, convenient foods healthier. Most fast-food meals—even kids' meals—have more fat, sugar, and sodium than children need, and eating this kind of unhealthy food can have negative health consequences over time, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues," Harris said.
Study authors said that healthier menu options had failed to make a dent because sugary sodas and french fries were still the default drinks and sides for kids' meals and were heavily promoted on signs inside restaurants.
Harris recommended that restaurants address this by making healthier options, like 100 percent juice, water and low-fat milk for drinks and oranges, apple slices and yogurt for snakes, the default for kids' meals.
She also recommended they work on providing healthier main courses for children as well.
"Given parents' positive attitudes about kids' meal policies, and how often families are visiting these restaurants today, fast-food companies have a substantial marketing opportunity to better promote the healthier options inside their restaurants," Harris said.
Roundup for Breakfast? Weed Killer Found in Kids’ Cereals, Other Oat-Based Foods https://t.co/QDKM9gYxSW— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1534590132.0
Kraft Heinz announced Tuesday it was voluntarily recalling around 7,000 cases of Taco Bell Salsa Con Queso Mild Cheese Dip over concerns they could become infected with the bacteria that causes botulism.
The company said the dip in the affected cases had begun to separate, which could create conditions that allow the bacterium Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum) to grow.
The affected dip comes in 15 ounce glass jars and have use by dates ranging from October 31, 2018 to January 23, 2019.
"We deeply regret this situation and apologize to any consumers we have disappointed," the company said in its announcement.
Kraft Heinz confirmed that no illnesses had been reported. They urged customers who had purchased the product not to eat it, but to return it to the store for a full refund or call the company at 1-800-310-3704.
The cheese dip recall comes the same week as popular crackers Ritz and Goldfish were caught up in a recall due to the use of whey powder contaminated with salmonella.
The affected cheese dip product was only distributed in the U.S.
Symptoms begin with weakness of the eye, face, mouth and throat muscles. This can spread to the neck, arms, torso and legs, and even the muscles that control breathing, which is what makes the disease sometimes fatal.
Botulism is actually caused by spores the bacteria make to protect themselves The spores do not usually make people sick unless encouraged to grow in certain environments that are low oxygen, low sugar, low acid, low salt, within a certain temperature range and that contain a certain amount of water.
Improperly home-canned foods can provide such an environment, and most foodborne cases of botulism come from homemade products, according to the CDC.
For example, in 2016, the most recent year for which data exists, the most extensive botulism outbreak was linked to homemade alcohol produced in a Mississippi prison and the second from home-canned goods, according to the National Botulism Surveillance Summary for 2016. There were 29 confirmed foodborne cases that year overall.
Other commercial recalls linked to botulism in 2018 included "Gerard & Dominique Seafoods" brand Cold Smoked Wild Coho Salmon Lox in Washington, pork soup from Guymon Extracts in Oklahoma and Imperial Caviar and Seafood brand and VIP Caviar Club brand whitefish and salmon roe in Canada, Food Safety News reported.