Meat sourcing an issue for Target, among other companiesMany food retailers and restaurants are changing up their meat purchasing strategies and implementing strategic sourcing practices in order to avoid buying products from farms that have a record of animal abuse or gestation crate use. Some of these are large companies, such as McDonald's, Target and Cheesecake Factory, and the huge amount of purchasing these businesses do can make such strategies difficult to put in place.

Different reasons for new suppliers
Companies that are changing their meat sourcing strategies have various reasons for doing so, and many come back to public relations issues. Cheesecake Factory and Target recently partnered with more than 30 other food companies that have all vowed to clear their supply chains of gestation crates, cramped pens used to confine pregnant pigs. Both companies have announced that they are working with pork suppliers to ensure their supply chains are crate-free by 2022. Their partners include major corporations such as Kraft Foods, Campbell Soup, Safeway, Kroger and Wendy's.

Animal welfare has also been a concern for fast food chain Burger King, which made a commitment to source only cage-free chickens and eggs by 2017.

Other companies are changing up their meat sourcing for reasons relating to sustainability. McDonald's is taking steps to reduce the ecological footprint of its beef supply chain, a slow process because there's not yet a clear definition of what sustainable beef is.

Cost savings vs. corporate responsibility
While many food companies are taking the steps to source their animal products more ethically, some suppliers are concerned that requiring more sustainable and humane treatment of animals will prove to be too costly, according to The Associated Press. However, many are under the impression that if consumers are concerned enough to get companies to source more ethically, they'll pay a little more for products.

"Our attitude is our producers believe in consumer choice and if that's what their consumers want to buy, they'll produce cage-free eggs for the marketplace provided the customer is willing to pay the extra cost," said Gene Gregory, president of the United Egg Producers, according to the AP.

The cost to the food industry has the potential to be significant. With many of the country's largest food retailers and restaurants committed to or inquiring about sourcing from crate-free or cage-free suppliers, the impact may be enormous. With the demand for ethically raised animals increasing, suppliers may have to rapidly change their businesses to keep some of their biggest clients satisfied.
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