Note- I wrote this college essay in July of 2011. All links and references may not be relevant.
People may experience a sense of compromise when faced with the decision to eat fast food. Many Americans are most often in a hurry to drive to important places. Because of time constraints, there might not be enough time sit down and eat a freshly cooked meal. Consumers are given an alternative in the form of the Quick Service Restaurants. Corporate QSR has become popular because of their ability to produce quick food at low prices. Even though films such as “Supersize Me” and “McLibel” have revealed to the public the dangers of QSR’s, particularly McDonald’s, billions of people still patronize these establishments. When hunger pains and sense of urgency arises, what ethical compromises do consumers make by buying the “Big Macs” or “Whoppers?” When consumers purchase a sandwich with cooked beef and dripping hot cheese on a semi-moisten sesame seed bun are they quietly agreeing to the destructive methods that it took to create that burger? What harm does that $2.99 deluxe cheeseburger with ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, and mayonnaise do to our livestock and our environment?
“Factory Farms” is a slang term that refers to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations farms (CAFO) or Industrial Farm Animal Production (IFAP). One of the qualifications of a CAFO farm is that the factory houses up to 125,000 animals. The intent of CAFO farms is to produce the highest amount of food at low cost (Farm Forward). Under the 125,000 livestock qualification, giant farms like Perdue Farms Inc, Tyson’s Foods, or Lopez Foods would be considered CAFOs. Sanders farm is another CAFO farm. Sanders Farm supplies SYSCO (a major food redistribution company) with chicken. In a study by the Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, 2% of the national average income is spent on meat, whereas 4.5 % was spent during the 1970’s (The Pew Charitable Trust and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health). Americans are spending less for food. How can meat be cheaper for the financial needs of the country? Factory Farms can reduce the amount of space to hold animals and reduce the amount of care for livestock.
Factory Farming is an unethical method of obtaining food. From the 1930s to 2002, the number of farms has dwindled down to a few major food-processing companies. The few CAFOs that provide the United States with livestock raise said animals in inhumane conditions in order for speedy processing into food. “Pigs live in crowded hog confinement bins. Most of a sow’s life is in a 2 foot by 7 foot “gestation crate,” in which the animal is only able to sit or lie down, but not turn around. Piglets are fed physically separated from her in “farrowing [sic] crates. (Kennel)”
Factory Farms force overgrowth of muscle tissue in the 9 billion “broiler” chickens with the use of chemicals. The chemically injected chickens develop issues such as severe lameness to gastrointestinal and blood diseases as well as respiratory infections. Furthermore, chickens are exposed to toxic ammonia fumes from their own waste by being crowded with thousands of other birds. Hens are debunked and crammed into cages 8 or 9 at a time. Cows are fattened for slaughter while standing among their own waste and mud. Livestock constitutes 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Factory farms use various pesticides, antibiotics, and chemicals found in wells and streams in the U.S. (Kennel).
As of 2008, America’s workforce numbered 16.6 million. There are over 7.7 million jobs in food and beverage serving. 2,701,700 of these jobs are in the fast food industry with an estimate of 3,096,000 by 2018(United States Department of Labor). The Bureau of Labor Statistics also stated that in 2008 17% of Americans were employed by QSRs. Within 17% of the QSR workforce, five of the largest employers were Subway, McDonalds, Starbucks, Pizza Hut and Burger King. Fast Food industry provides both jobs and inexpensive food (Elsenpeter).
Subway was ranked the #1 franchise in America. The Subway QSR prides itself on constantly becoming more environmentally and socially responsible. The franchise works on sustainable initiatives of energy efficiency, water and resource conservation, and waste reduction, as well as continuing to focus on food quality and food safety (Subway). Subway uses its own food purchasing system called “Independent Purchasing Cooperative.” Franchise owners are required to purchase their ingredients through IPC. According to The Packer (a news source for fresh fruit and vegetable industry), Subway purchases its vegetables through SYSCO (a bulk food distribution company). In a 2005 report by the Food Safety and Inspection Services, Subway had to recall chicken strips in cases coded “09365” and “09222.” The chicken strips purchased by Subway were distributed by Perdue Farms, Inc., (United States Department of Agriculture).
In a 2010 press release, McDonald’s owns 14,000 restaurants in the United States (McDonalds USA). In a report by USA Today, McDonald’s beef is tested 10 times more than the USDA test for beef for schools (Eisler). McDonald’s sponsors the Ronald McDonald House, whose mission is “to create, find and support programs that directly improve the health and well being of children (McDonald’s Corporation). McDonald’s buys its chicken from CAFOs like Tyson Foods and Keystone Foods. McDonald’s beef is purchased from Lopez Foods, another CAFO. However, a small percentage of McDonald’s beef is imported from Australia and New Zealand (McDonald’s).
Pizza Hut maintains over 6,000 QSR restaurants in the US with 94 additional locations across the world. Pizza Hut is a subsidiary of “Yum! Brands, Inc”, which boasts to have over 37,000 locations in more than 120 countries (Pizza Hut, Inc.). Pizza Hut, as well as Taco Bell, purchases its ingredients from SYSCO Foods (SYSCO Corporation).
Burger King, like McDonald’s, purchases its chicken from Tyson’s foods. Recently, Burger King has sought to improve the quality of its food. “Burger King plans to more than double its cage-free purchases by the end of this year , to 5 percent of the total, and will also double its purchases of pork from producers who do not use crates, to 20 percent. (Martin).” However, Burger King’s initiative to decrease animal cruelty does not extend to cows. In 2008, Burger King was locked into a labor dispute with Florida farmers over a one-cent increase on tomatoes according to an article posted by NPR on May 8, 2008. In a 2009 annual report, Burger King “owned or franchised a total of 11,925 restaurants” in which “7,233 or 61% were located in the United States (Wells).”
Starbucks prides itself on being globally responsible. Starbucks attests to ethically trading with Non-U.S. country farmers by establishing “Farmer Support Centers in Costa Rica and Rwanda to provide local farmers with resources and expertise to help lower the cost of production, reduce fungus infections, improve coffee quality and increase the production of premium coffee (Starbucks, Inc.).” However, Starbucks has yet to purchase coffee from fair trade farmers. The fair trade certification offers coffee farmers fair prices and other benefits to produce high-quality products and compete in the global market. Fair Trade helps small-holder coffee farmers find less destructive ways of producing coffee for a sustainable environment (Anonymous). In 2007, Starbucks had been in a media battle with Oxfam America over Oxfam’s fair trade initiatives (Westhoff).
There is a political principle that refers to choosing between two bad choices, which is known as “lesser of the two evils” principle. Despite the fact that QSR’s are contributing to society, the franchises are still allowing horrific methods for livestock processing. Other franchises that do not deal with CAFOs purchase food from distributors like SYSCO. Even non-sandwich related franchises such as Starbucks makes ethical compromises. QSR does not offer living wages to their employees; minimum wage employees cannot invest in the local economy in a way that living wage workers can. Each time people buy a value meal or a happy meal, they are contributing to an inhumane and destructive engine that is slowly destroying both animal life and the ecosystem.
Anonymous. “Green Mountain Coffee, and Fair Trade USA Biodiversity Initiative Supports Economic and Social Development for Brazilian Coffee Farmers.” Ecology, environment & Conservation 4 March 2010, Fair Trade USA ed.: 3331.
Eisler, Peter. Fast-food standards for meat top those for school lunches. 9 December 2009. Gannett Co. Inc. http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-12-08-school-lunch-standards_N.htm
Elsenpeter, Robber. As Economy Shrinks, Fast Food Grows. 19 April 2009. http://www.startribune.com/jobs/career/43106192.html
Farm Forward. Factory Farming. 24 February 2011. http://www.farmforward.com/farming-forward/factory-farming
Kennel, David. “Factory farming: a cruel and destructive industry.” People’s Weekly World 10–16 November 2007: 2.
Martin, Andrew. Burger King Shifts Policy on Animals . 28 March 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/28/business/28burger.html
McDonald’s Corporation. Mission and Vision. 30 November 2008. http://rmhc.org/who-we-are/mission-and-vision/
McDonald’s. Meats. 2 May 2010. http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/food/food_quality/see_what_we_are_made_of/your_questions_answered/meats.html
McDonald’s USA. McDonald’s® USA Voluntarily Recalls Shrek Forever After™ Glassware. 4 June 2010. http://www.aboutmcdonalds.com/mcd/media_center/recent_news/corporate/Shrek_Recall.htmlPizza Hut, Inc. About Us. 3 August 2010. http://www.pizzahutfranchise.com/about-best-pizza-franchise.php
Starbucks, Inc. Being a Responsible Company. 12 April 2010. http://www.starbucks.com/responsibility/sourcing/farmer-support
Subway. “Be part of a winning team with the #1 franchise.” Be part of a winning team with the #1 franchise. Milford: Subway, 2010. 10.
SYSCO Corporation. News Release. 11 August 2004. http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=86717&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=345141&highlight=
The Pew Charitable Trust and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Products in America.” Research Report. n.d.
United States Department of Agriculture. Recall Notification Report 011–2005. 17 March 2005. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls/RNR_011_2005/index.asp
United States Department of Labor. “Food and Beverage Serving and Related Workers.” 17 December 2009. Bureau of Labor Statistics. United States Department of Labor. http://www.bls.gov/oco/pdf/ocos162.pdf
Wells, Ben K. “2009 Form 10-K Annual Report.” 27 August 2009. Burger King Holdings, Inc. Burger King Holdings, Inc. http://www.mediantonline.com/0/000/166/708/HTML2/burger_king-10k2009_0002.htm2 Westhoff, Julia. “Oxfam vs. Starbucks: The Battle Over Fair Trade.” Essay. 2007.