Billionaire Carl Icahn has ramped up his campaign against McDonald’s over the fast-food giant’s pig sourcing policy, which the activist investor says is obscene.
McDonald’s sources pigs from suppliers who continue to keep pregnant sows in gestation crates.
Icahn has nominated Maisie Ganzler, chief strategy, and brand officer at Bon Appetit Management Company, and Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capital Management, for the 2022 director board election, according to a Feb. 20 press release by McDonald’s.
The company accused Icahn of making nominations based on “a narrow issue” of McDonald’s pork commitment.
Back in 2012, McDonald’s had pledged to eventually source pork from suppliers who do not keep pregnant sows in small crates.
In 2017, the company predicted that it would achieve this target in the United States by the end of 2022.
At present, producers contracted with McDonald’s move pigs out of small crates after confirming the animal’s pregnancy.
Such confirmations are made only four to six weeks into a sow’s 16-week pregnancy.
Icahn wants these small crates, called gestation crates, to be prohibited altogether.
Gestation crates tend to be roughly two feet wide.
Sows cannot turn around in the constricted space, allowing producers to pack in as many animals as possible.
McDonald’s insists that over 60 percent of the pork it sources in the United States comes from “confirmed pregnant sows” that are not held in gestation crates.
But in a recent phone call with the company’s CEO, Chris Kempczinski, Icahn lashed out against McDonald’s interpretation of the 2021 pledge.
“You’re just hiding behind the word pregnant,” Mr. Icahn told the CEO.
“When you keep injecting semen into the sow every day, you don’t think she’s going to be pregnant?
In its latest press release, McDonald’s criticized Icahn’s demands, which include the company making new commitments to ensure that all of its pork suppliers in America move to “crate-free” pork while setting specific timeframes to achieve it.
The company pointed out that Icahn is the majority owner of Viskase, which manufactures and supplies packaging for the poultry and pork industry.
Icahn has yet to ask Viskase to adopt commitments similar to what McDonald’s adopted in 2012, something the fast-food firm said is “noteworthy.”
McDonald’s has also announced new milestones to release the company from ties with suppliers that deal with gestation crates.
“By the end of 2022, the Company expects to source 85 percent to 90 percent of its U.S. pork volumes from sows not housed in gestation crates during pregnancy,” the press release states.
“Despite industry-wide challenges for farmer and producers, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and global swine disease outbreaks, the Company expects 100 percent of its U.S. pork will come from sows housed in groups during pregnancy by the end of 2024.”