The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals by Wayne Pacelle describes a revolution in American business and public policy that is changing forever how we treat animals and conduct commerce. Below is an excerpt from the book, which is available for pre-order now.
"A Capitalist Revolution"
Chipotle, which describes itself as a fast-food company with a conscience, made its stand against extreme confinement of animals a centerpiece of its brand years ago, and it's been building on that notion ever since—with phenomenal success. In 2000, company founder Steve Ells was visiting a hog farm in Thornton, Iowa, where he saw free-range pigs foraging, grunting and socializing outside, and he was shocked to learn that most pigs, cooped up in factory farms, would never enjoy such simple pleasures. "I didn't want my success or Chipotle's to be based on that,” said Ells. So he made a commitment to buy all of Chipotle's pork from farms that do not crate pigs—part of a broader "Food with Integrity” commitment. Chipotle has since campaigned aggressively against factory farming, producing a series of viral YouTube videos that earned millions of views and shined a light on the excesses of industrial agriculture. Ells' decision—benefitting animals but also a boon to small farmers and the environment—has paid off handsomely for the company. Between 1998 and 2013, Chipotle grew from just eighteen restaurants to more than 2,000. Its revenues for the first time ever exceeded a billion dollars in the first quarter of 2015.
That incredible revenue growth—Chipotle had done $727 million in sales in the first quarter just two years earlier—occurred at a time when the company had a major disruption in its supply chain. In January 2015, Chipotle learned that one of its suppliers had violated the company's animal care standards. Chipotle promptly cut off the supplier even though it would face a shortage of higher-welfare pork. Chipotle stopped selling its popular carnitas at more than 1,500 of its restaurants. "We would rather not serve pork at all than serve pork from animals that are raised this way,” Chris Arnold, a Chipotle spokesperson told the press. "Replacing the supply we have lost in these ways will take some time, but it is important to us to maintain our high standards for pork, and we will continue to see some shortage while we work to increase the available supply.” Food industry analysts noted that the decision "shines their halo” and reminds customers that the company stands for something meaningful, which also burnishes the brand and grows revenues.
Whole Foods Market co-founder John Mackey, co-author with Raj Sisodia of Conscious Capitalism and also a board member with HSUS, argues that every company must have a higher purpose than profit making. Mackey has reformed not only his company's pork procurement practices, but also its approach to every other kind of animal product sold in its stores. Mackey made Whole Foods the first major food retailer to adopt a program that raises animal welfare standards and gives customers information to act on their beliefs about any animal product. He provided the inspiration for the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), an animal products certification program with a five-step animal welfare rating system that helps farmers move away from confinement and toward more humane, pasture-based systems.
While other certification systems declare a product humane or not humane—a binary approach—the beauty of GAP's framework is that the rating system allows consumers and producers to ask more of themselves and to embark on a sort of moral climbing expedition. With competition spurring them on, along with the moral adrenaline that comes with doing the right thing, many producers who are already part of the program incorporate more animal welfare standards into their husbandry practices and go from step one to step three and eventually to step five. Consumers, driven by the same sort of moral positive feedback systems, are spurred to pay a bit more and bring home higher-welfare products. With a race to the top on both the supply and demand sides, animals benefit.
By the end of 2015, GAP was connecting millions of consumers with more than 3,000 farms through more than 400 Whole Foods stores and was the most important and comprehensive animal welfare program associated with agriculture. Overall, Whole Foods does $16 billion in annual sales, and reports that sales of more ethically sourced animal products are robust and growing. Other major food retailers have mimicked Whole Foods' in-store innovations, and I expect other industry leaders to adopt the GAP program or develop their own animal welfare standards over time. Even with the other giants in food retail not yet on board, and Whole Foods as the biggest purchaser of GAP-certified products, there are now more than 300 million animals certified under the program and free from the harshest forms of confinement on factory farms.
... For those clinging to old, crude ways, there really are no escape routes with an informed citizenry. Consumer sentiment should alone be enough to lever a change in the way the pig industry goes about its business; but when that's reinforced with the demands of food retailers, institutional investors, pollsters, politicians, scientists and other influential people, you know the end of the era of gestation crate confinement looms. It's almost as if the old guard is in a box, unable to make a turn and see what's best for them. The only humane thing to do is show them a way into the light and fresh air of the burgeoning humane economy.