Which Companies Use Humanely-Raised Meat?

Most of the meat, dairy and egg products that we find in grocery stores and restaurants originate from factory farms that minimize costs by specializing in cruel, inhumane intensive-confinement (also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs). However, recent commitments by major restaurant chains, grocery stores and other businesses reflect a shift in consumer attitude towards factory farms.

While some companies have announced plans for sweeping changes, others have yet to make progress, presenting a threat to shareholders and their public image.

As a consumer, your dollar means everything to these companies.  You can help end factory farming cruelty by supporting brands that adhere to humane guidelines for raising and slaughtering their animals, reading the label and trying some alternatives to factory farm meats.

Brands to Support


Since 2001, Chipotle has sourced 100 percent of its pork from gestation-crate-free producers as part of the company’s “Food With Integrity” campaign.

Whole Foods

Major organic and natural foods grocery chain Whole Foods, rolled out a new animal welfare rating program. Under the program, every store will have signs that “tell customers exactly how animals were raised.”

In its rating system, developed by the Global Animal Partnership, the highest rating (5+, colored green) would go to a chicken that, among other things, had been bred, hatched and raised on a single farm, lived year-round on pasture covered with at least 75 percent vegetation and had legs that were healthy enough to support it by the time it reached market weight. The lowest rating (1, colored yellow) would reflect adherence to several dozen baseline provisions about feed, antibiotics and treatment, but also a provision that the animal must not have been caged or crowded.

Wolfgang Puck Restaurants

Celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck’s made the decision to “use products only from animals raised under strict humane standards” in all his restaurants. This means no more factory farmed chicken or beef, and no more foie gras.

Brands to Avoid

Gestation Crates

Multiple investigations have uncovered rampant, unchecked animal abuse at Tyson Foods Inc.  In addition to the use of gestation crates, undercover investigations at Tyson supplier factory farms have spurred anti-whistleblower legislation.  One investigation documented “[workers kicking] piglets like soccer balls, whipped them around by their hind legs, smashed them into concrete floors, and threw them high into the air.”

Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest pork producer, said they would stop using gestation crates at company-owned farms by 2017.  However, the company has been pledging to end the use of gestation crates since 2007.  Numerous undercover investigations reveal systematic abuses at Smithfield-owned factory farms including the use of gestation crates so small the pigs could barely move their entire lives.  Other documented observations include:

  • Pigs who had been shot in the forehead with a captive bolt gun and thrown in the dumpster still alive and breathing.
  • Employees mishandling piglets and tossed them into carts.
  • Some piglets prematurely born in gestation crates fell through the slats into the manure pits.

ConAgra, owners of the Butterball brand and supplied by Tyson Foods Inc. have not made advancements toward humane treatment of its animals.  “Hens used for ConAgra’s products are crammed into cages so small, they’re virtually immobilized for their entire lives,” stated Josh Balk, outreach director for The HSUS’ factory farming campaign at a 2010 shareholder meeting at ConAgra.

Undercover investigations at Pilgram’s Pride factory farms and slaughterhouses reveal workers violently throwing and stomping on chickens to kill them.  Pilgram’s Pride is a major supplier for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Despite complaints filed to KFC, Pilgram’s Pride and the USDA, no official action has been taken by the company to curb the rampant abuse.

Domino’s Pizza shareholders rejected in 2012 a request by the Humane Society of the United States to end the use of pork from suppliers who confine pregnant pigs in crates.

Brands with Plans to Improve

McDonald’s became the first major fast food company to create a definite timetable to eliminate gestation crate confinement of breeding pigs from its pork supply chain.   Following this announcement, other major brands followed suit with similar pledges.

In April 2012, fast-food giant Burger King announced that all its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and pigs by 2017.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., announced on June 14, 2012 that it will begin formulating plans that provide for a pork supply system within Cracker Barrel that is free of gestation crates, cages used to confine breeding pigs, which have been criticized in recent years due to animal welfare concerns.

Cargill Inc. says it has already widely adopted group housing for pregnant sows. Cargill is already 50 percent crate-free.

Compass Group, the largest food service company in the world, operating 10,000 dining facilities in the U.S., has announced that it will eliminate gestation crates from its supply chain by 2017.

Sonic Corp. announced plans to phase in a pork supply chain free of gestation crates by 2017.

Wendy’s is working with its U.S. and Canadian pork suppliers to eliminate the use of sow gestation stalls over time.

Safeway, Inc.  announced in May, 2012 that it will begin formulating plans to have a gestation stall-free supply chain.

Hellmann’s, owned by food manufacturing giant Unilever announced in May, 2010 that it aspires to change all its ‘Real Food’ mayonnaise recipes, including Real, Canola Cholesterol Free, Olive Oil, and Low Fat Mayonnaise Dressings, to cage-free eggs once a certifiable and consistent supply become available in North America, and is working closely with suppliers to achieve this goal.

Krispy Kreme announced in June 2011 that it will transition to sourcing cage-free eggs.

Sara Lee joined the national movement away from using eggs from caged hens by announcing a new cage-free egg purchasing program in 2010.  The company has committed that more than one million of the eggs it uses each year will not come from hens crammed into battery cages, which provide each bird less space than a single sheet of paper on which to spend her entire life.

Kraft Foods announced it would buy 1 million cage-free eggs in 2010.  However, since the time of this announcement there have been no official follow ups or pledges to continue using cage-free eggs.


Share this article:


    1. JC says:

      Just how happy can a local, sustainable, natural, organic, GMO-free, free-range, grass-fed, pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, cage-free, free-run, free-roaming, home-raised, free-farmed, small-farmed, certified-humane animal be, when she’s raped, has her reproductive system exploited and then is brutally murdered in the prime of her life – all for some “caring” consumer?

      Why Vegan? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE

    2. Editor says:

      JC, those animals will be much happier than one raised on a factory farm. Consumers will never stop eating meat – although I applaud those who are vegan/vegetarian – so we need better solutions. Animals that are raised specifically for feeding our nation and the world should, at the very least, be treated with respect and dignity. Factory farming is an abomination that needs to be replaced by healthier and more sustainable systems.

    3. natalya hau says:

      Great article! I started eating humanely-raised meat about two years ago now and yes, while going vegan or vegetarian, is the only way to not contribute to animal killing, eating humanely raised is a huge step forward, especially because it’d be almost impossible to convince humans as a whole to stop eating meat, but showing evidence and benefits (health, environment, animals, local community, etc) of changing to humanely raised meat is much easier.

      I’ve actually started a website (www.eatingkind.com) to help provide resources to people of why, what and where they can buy humanely raised meat. I know that at least my friends and family have definitely taken notice and either completely switched or buy more humanely raised meat than before. And having restaurants like Chipotle and Safeway (with their Open Nature brand) makes it pretty darn easy to buy products that were raised in a less cruel and more sustainable way. And yes, the cost of the humanely raised meat is a little more expensive, but if you can afford to spend a little more, its worth it! Especially considering that when we buy meat that comes from CAFOs we’re still paying an extremely high price for it, just not at the register. But that’s a whole another discussion :)

    4. Saurabh says:

      Oh my god D: This is so sad. I don’t know how people can conutnie to eat animals when this is how they are treated. I understand that it is hard to give it up but I could never eat meat again knowing the price animals pay for it. They don’t deserve this.. they deserve respect! Humans sicken me so much sometimes. Some people argue that it is only natural to eat other animals because we are on top of the food chain and all other animals do it .. but I know they are just trying to excuse their actions. People want their actions to agree with their beliefs, so they try to convince themselves that it’s ok when everyone knows deep down that it’s not! The fact is, humans no longer need to eat animsl for SURVIVAL- some animals in the wild need it for survival. But we have a choice! Maybe if people did this in a humane way it wouldn’t be so bad, but the way the animals are treated disgusts me so much. It would be completely unacceptable and ILLEGAl to do that to a human.. and animals deserve the same rights. I’m glad there are strong and caring people who support PETA and similar organizations who are helping to make a difference and give these animals a voice.. don’t give up! <3VA:F [1.9.8_1114]Like (0 votes)

    5. Editor says:

      Humans eat meat because our bodies have adapted to an omnivorous diet over millions of years. The forces of greed, desire for maximum profit and lack of empathy is what drives the factory farm industry. You can find humanely raised meat with a little bit of research and support those companies with your money. It’s the only way to get a big company to pay attention – stop purchasing from them.