Caring for Farm Animals
We have a responsibility to ensure that animals are treated with respect and care in the process of providing nutritious food that is served in our restaurants. Our Animal Welfare Policy defines Darden’s position and outlines our approach and commitments to animal welfare.
Our Animal Welfare Policy
Darden takes animal welfare very seriously. A key tenet of our approach is to work with protein suppliers who are committed to the improvement of animal welfare. We expect our suppliers to share our commitment to the ‘Five Freedoms’ of care throughout the life of farm animals and to also provide a valid and verified animal welfare certification.
- Freedom from hunger and thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
Animal Welfare Council
In 2019, we established an Animal Welfare Council, which unites a cross-functional group of academics and thought leaders in the care of animals in food supply chains. This group is responsible for continued efforts to improve animal welfare outcomes and most recently, mapped out a framework and process for working with chicken suppliers on key welfare areas, including medically important antibiotic usage.
Dr. Lily Edwards-Callaway
Assistant Professor of Animal Sciences
Colorado State University
Dr. Leonie Jacobs
Assistant Professor, Animal Welfare & Behavior
Dr. Tiffany Lee
Director, Animal Welfare
Clemens Food Group
Jorgette Marinez, Chair
Director, Global Lead FBA, Consumer Sectors
Dr. Janice Swanson
Professor, Director of Animal Welfare
Michigan State University
Our Commitments to Animal Welfare
Improved Animal Welfare Outcomes: Our goal is that Darden’s suppliers will contribute to measurable, continuous improvements in animal welfare outcomes by 2025. Darden will work with our suppliers, industry peers, and our Animal Welfare Advisory Council to define these metrics in line with developments in welfare measurement methods and begin pilot testing.
Poultry: In partnership with our poultry suppliers, we will continue to seek improvements that result in healthy biological function, expression of natural behavior and humane processing. In addition, Darden is committed to purchasing chicken raised without the use of medically important antibiotics by 2023 and will continue to work with suppliers on monitoring responsible antibiotic usage.
In 2016, Darden committed to work with pork suppliers to limit the use of gestation crates for housing pregnant sows, with a goal to source only gestation-crate free pork by 2025. At that time, we believed the pork industry was moving in that direction and we had a plan in place to work towards this goal. We intentionally chose suppliers, or grew our existing purchases from suppliers, who were also focused on moving towards open pen/group housing systems of pork production.
However, in the years since we made our initial commitment, the United States pork industry, including our suppliers, has not moved as quickly as we expected towards open pen/group housing systems. This is primarily due to three factors:
- Inconsistent industry standards and state regulations
- The capital expense required for pork producers to upgrade housing systems
- Limited supply of specific cuts — designated as raised in open pen/group housing — that meets Darden's strict quality standards and specifications
In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has added to challenges facing the United States pork industry resulting in shortages of certain products during this disruption. We have had to find alternative suppliers for some products to ensure our guests can order the same high-quality, favorite menu items they expect when they visit any of our eight restaurant brands.
Given the significant changes in the external environment, and following substantive conversations with our supply chain partners, it has become apparent that it is not feasible to achieve our goal to source only gestation-crate free pork by 2025. We are evaluating a feasible timeline for achieving 100% open pen/group housing in our pork supply (which allows pregnant sows to at least live in groups for a majority of their pregnancy) and will provide an updated timeline by the end of FY2023. In the short term, it is our intention to disclose the percentage of pork sourced from suppliers that allow pregnant sows to live in groups for at least part of their pregnancy. Today, that amount is approximately 33%.
We will continue to collaborate with our suppliers toward our longer-term goal of eventually reaching a supply chain 100% free of gestation crates and will provide updates on an annual basis on our website at www.darden.com.
Eggs: 100% of all egg products purchased by Darden for use in our U.S. owned and operated restaurants are sourced from cage-free housing systems. Additionally, our international franchisees are working to source only cage-free eggs, as they are able, by the end of 2027.
Antibiotics: Darden requires its suppliers to comply with the FDA guidelines which recommend that antibiotics that are important in human medicine no longer be used with farm animals for growth purposes, and shared-class antibiotics (i.e., those used by both humans and animals) only be used to treat, prevent and control disease in farm animals under the supervision of a veterinarian. We will continue to monitor compliance that all of our land-based protein supply meets these guidelines.