McDonald’s says Icahn’s demand to treat pigs better is too expensive

Two pigs looking up from a fence, animal news
Pigs, photo: Kenneth Schipper Vera on Unsplash

Billion-dollar fast-food company McDonald’s said that investor Carl Icahn’s demands to improve the lives of pigs are too expensive.

Icahn, who owns around $50,000 worth of McDonald’s stock, wants the fast-food chain to stop buying pork from suppliers that keep their animals in gestation crates.

Pork producers keep female pigs in tight gestation or farrowing crates their whole lives, artificially impregnate them repeatedly, and take away their piglets at just a few weeks old. By keeping the pigs confined in the small crates, industrial farmers can crowd thousands of animals inside a single shed.

“I really do feel emotional about these animals and the unnecessary suffering,” billionaire Carl Icahn said earlier about the treatment of pigs by McDonald’s.

He has nominated two directors to the company’s board to help monitor progress on the issue. “McDonald’s inability to fulfill its 10-year-old promise indicates cracks in the board’s highly touted ESG efforts,” Icahn wrote, asking fellow investors to back his two board nominees. Investors will vote on May 26 at the company’s annual meeting.

ESG stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. Investors increasingly apply these non-financial factors to their analysis process to identify material risks and growth opportunities.

Ten years ago, McDonald’s promised to only buy pig products from farmers who don’t keep their animals in tiny crates by 2022.

“What Mr. Icahn is demanding from McDonald’s and other companies is completely unfeasible,” McDonald’s said in a statement a week ago, adding that if they do decide to treat their pigs better, they will charge the extra costs to their customers.

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