America is more eager than ever to be closer to the sources and farming practices behind our food. The factory farming prevalent throughout America's food supply chain for both animals and vegetables comes under a lot of scrutiny for everything from spinach salmonella outbreaks to the pink slime controversy. One subject that is less talked about than chemicals in our food or food borne illnesses is the treatment of animals used for food. I will leave the vegetarian/vegan debate for another time, because in reality animals will always be used in some capacity as a food source. Activists and other animal rights groups know this reality, and as a result are working tirelessly to raise public awareness about humane food animal practices.
Corporate restaurant supply chains are taking notice that consumers will no longer take their business to places that do business with farms utilizing inhumane practices. It's sad that it takes bad PR or profit as motivation for some companies to make the right decisions in their supply chain. Regardless, making changes reactively for poor reasons is better than not making changes at all.
The humane society began their campaign against battery cages for egg laying hens back in 2005, eventually pressuring companies from Wendy's to IHOP to switch from caged hens to cage free. Since then, they have run numerous other similar campaigns, such as working to eliminate pig cages (gestation crates) for pork production. Arby's announced just last week that they are eliminating pig cages from their supply chain. Last April, Burger King announced their plans to eliminate pig cages as well as to use eggs from cage-free hens, a plan that will take five years to implement.
On a personal level, the best way to support products from animals raised humanely is to know more about the supplier. Talk with your grocer about the products being sold. Buy from small family farmers who have proven that they have met specific guidelines. Check labels and look for Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, or Free-Farm Certified products.