Pressure on Denny's to make progress on gestation crate elimination

Restaurant chain cites market conditions, supply constraints and elevated costs for not being able to forecast a specific timeline.

Ann Hess, Content Director

May 7, 2024

3 Min Read
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Denny’s Corporation could face some opposition at its May 15 annual investor meeting regarding setting measurable, timebound targets for eliminating gestation crates in its pork supply. Last month the restaurant chain received a shareholder proposal from The Humane Society of the United States and  a notice of exempt solicitation from The Accountability Board, Inc urging shareholders to vote for a proposal regarding pig gestation crates at its upcoming shareholder meeting.

In HSUS’ supporting statement, the organization emphasized that despite 10-plus years of assurances, Denny’s hasn’t made “meaningful progress and now lacks any targets for ever eliminating (or even reducing) gestation crates in its supply chain.”

HSUS went on to point out other pork buyers exclusively use such pork (or are on track to), including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Panera Bread, Cheesecake Factory, Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Shake Shack, Aramark and Campbell’s.

The Accountability Board echoed that sentiment, stating after a decade of promises, establishing a target is the next sensible step.

“Consider that Denny’s Opposition Statement says, ‘The Board and management will continue to monitor and evaluate the pork supply chain and our related long-term goal of phasing out the use of gestation crates.’ 

“But we must ask: exactly how long this long-term goal is? Because over the last dozen years, Denny’s doesn’t seem to have made meaningful progress or even gained a basic understanding of the issue. 

“Meanwhile, Wendy’s already uses 100% group-housed pork domestically, McDonald’s will reach 100% this year, and Restaurant Brands International is tracking toward 94% globally. Panera, Shake Shack, Cheesecake Factory, Jack in the Box, Chipotle and many others exclusively use (or are on track to) group-housed pork, too. Kroger’s on track for “100% of fresh pork from sows in group housing” by 2025. Costco announced group housing ‘beginning in calendar 2023 for all fresh pork and Kirkland Signature cooler items.’ Amazon ‘committed to sourcing gestation crate-free pork by 2025 in our grocery Private Brands fresh pork products in North America.’ And Target already ensures group housing for ‘the vast majority’ of fresh pork.”

In Denny’s board of directors’ statement in opposition to the stockholder resolution, the firm noted it made a previous commitment in good faith, based on belief that supply chain conditions would evolve to support the commitment.

“We anticipated a growing supply of pork from producers that do not use gestation crates at a cost that our company and franchise restaurants could reasonably absorb. Unfortunately, the pork supply industry has not evolved as expected.

“Due to market conditions, supply constraints for some products, and elevated costs, we cannot forecast a specific timeline to achieve our broader goal. While 32% of our pork supply currently is sourced from suppliers that either use group housing systems or do not house confirmed pregnant sows in gestation crates, we believe we could increase our sourcing to at least 50% by 2028. Further, we commit to tracking and transparently reporting our progress annually, with a goal of continued measured and meaningful improvements.

“The Board and management will continue to monitor and evaluate the pork supply chain and our related long-term goal of phasing out the use of gestation crates. However, we are unable to make further commitments currently without industry data to support our ability to meet such commitments. In light of our practices noted above, the Board believes this proposal is redundant and unnecessary and would be inefficient and not in the best interests of stockholders. For the above reasons the Board recommends that the stockholders vote against this proposal, if properly presented at the meeting.”

About the Author(s)

Ann Hess

Content Director, National Hog Farmer

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