ST. LOUIS -- The Hardee's and Carl's Jr. fast-food chains will begin purchasing eggs and pork from suppliers who do not keep animals in cages or crates, spokesmen for Hardee's and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said Wednesday.
Both chains are owned by Carpinteria, Calif.-based CKE Restaurants. Hardee's is based in St. Louis, while Carl's Jr. headquarters are in Carpinteria.
The agreement aims to improve the welfare of animals that provide food for the 1,905 Hardee's restaurants and 1,101 Carl's Jr. restaurants, said Jeff Mochal, a spokesman for Hardee's.
"We take the animal welfare concerns very seriously," Mochal said. "When you meet with PETA, they make a pretty good case. We want to stay consistent with where the industry is at now and where it's heading."
CKE becomes the second major fast-food restaurant company this year to begin moving toward cage-free chickens and pigs. Burger King announced similar changes in March.
Matt Prescott, assistant director of PETA, said the animal rights group first approached CKE in 2004 and discussions were renewed last year.
CKE has agreed to:
* Immediately begin purchasing 15 percent of its pork from suppliers that do not use metal "gestation crates" to confine sows, and increase that to 25 percent by 2009.
* Purchase 2 percent of its eggs from suppliers whose hens are not kept in wire cages by July 2008.
* Issue a statement to poultry suppliers stating it will "give consideration to approved suppliers who actively explore and test controlled-atmosphere stunning systems," which animal rights groups consider the most humane way to slaughter chickens.
"The companies that kill chickens for them will get the clear message they need to move to this less-cruel method of slaughter," Prescott said.
Burger King's changes called for 10 percent of pork to be purchased from suppliers that do not use gestation crates, a percentage that would double by the end of this year. Burger King also began getting 2 percent of its eggs from cage-free hens with plans to more than double the percentage by the end of the year. And like CKE, Burger King said it would give preference to suppliers that use or switch to controlled atmosphere stunning.
PETA said it has used media campaigns and behind-the-scene negotiations since 2000 in an effort to get fast-food and grocery chains to reduce animal suffering.
"Consumers oppose the cruel treatment of animals, so we encourage other restaurants and food retailers to follow CKE's lead," PETA vice president Bruce Friedrich said.