Tove Danovich (@TKDanovich) is a free-lance writer. Her work has appeared in publications such as NPR Food, Civil Eats and Eater. Work by Danovich we’ve included in the UC Food Observer includes: Picnics in art history: beauty and lessons and Dumpster dive? He’ll pay your fine. In this piece, which appears in Eater, Danovich explores how consumer demand is driving fast food and fast casual restaurant chains to source their products more ethically, with a greater focus on animal welfare and sustainability. Chipotle, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks are among those who are sourcing cage-free eggs, pork from farmers who don’t use gestation crates, chicken raised without antibiotics (“that are important to human medicine”) and milk from cows not treated with the artificial growth hormone rbST. 

In the piece, Danovich raises a critical question:


“Where is the sustainable supply of higher-standard eggs, meat, and dairy going to come from?”

Danovich writes this:


“For better or worse, while eliminating gestation crates and moving to cage-free eggs is certainly progress, it’s still progress within the “factory farming” system. It’s much cheaper — and easier — for farmers to update their indoor housing for farm animals than to move them all out to pasture. [David] Maren, of Tendergrass Farms, believes that there needs to be a discussion about standards that are economically viable for farmers. Farmers can’t present a supply of beautiful, humanely raised, sunbathed meats if there aren’t enough companies willing to pay for it.”


Will there be enough supply to meet demand?


…Joel Salatin, owner of hyper-sustainable Polyface Farms, doesn’t believe that “peak sustainability” — a point at which there’s no way we can possibly produce enough to go around — has to happen. “Can our kind of beef, for example, supply all the needs of every McDonald’s?” he says. “There’s no question that it can.”


One of the great aspects of this incredibly well-written and thoughtful piece lies in the section that traces the trajectory of how health food went “mainstream.” The piece also provides an excellent overview of key animal welfare issues. A must read.


Related Links:

Consumer demand is changing iconic products

Why some aren’t taking Chipotle’s GMO announcement seriously

McDonald’s USA: new antibiotics policy, sourcing initiatives