IHOP Supports Animal Cruelty, Lags Behind Competitors and Customers

Animal Welfare, Food Safety

IHOP tells its customers to “come hungry, leave happy,” but an increasing number of its customers are hungry for something that’s not yet on the menu—animal welfare improvements.

Unlike many other major restaurant chains—including Denny’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Quiznos, Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., and Red Robin—every single egg IHOP uses comes from a hen confined in a cage so small, she can’t even spread her wings. That’s right: 100% of the eggs IHOP sources come from battery cage confinement operations. Even more, IHOP’s primary egg supplier, Michael Foods, was just exposed by an undercover investigation that documented particularly egregious acts of animal cruelty.

In IHOP’s home state of California, this extreme form of confinement is considered so cruel that it’s been criminalized, and the Golden State’s egg producers must now phase it out.

And with good reason. The science is clear that battery cage confinement systems—those from which 100% of IHOP’s eggs come—are inherently inhumane. For example, the prestigious Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production—an independent panel chaired by former Kansas Governor John Carlin that also included former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, animal scientists, veterinarians, and ranchers—studied the issue for 2.5 years and concluded that battery cages must be phased out.

There’s more. The most thorough analysis of laying hen welfare ever done concluded that barren battery cages simply cannot provide adequate welfare. A comprehensive review of the scientific literature comparing cages and cage-free systems concluded that moving away from battery cages would improve hen welfare. And a Netherlands Journal of Agriculture Science report ranked battery cages dead last in terms of animal welfare.

But instead of starting to switch to higher welfare cage-free systems, IHOP merely offers excuses, such as, “Our supplier standards go beyond what is required by law…” It’s easy for IHOP to state that it goes beyond what’s required by law, as nearly no laws protect animals while they’re on factory farms.

Food industry consulting firm Technomic published a 2007 survey that found animal welfare is the third-most important social issue to American restaurant-goers—ever more important than the environment. A 2007 American Farm Bureau Federation survey found that less than a third of Americans think battery cages are humane, and nearly 90 percent believe food companies that require farmers to treat animals better are doing the right thing.

The time has indeed come for IHOP to do the right thing. Ask the company to get started.

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  1. Michael B
    Monday, September 21st, 2009
    It’s disturbing that IHOP is refusing to move an inch on this issue of animal abuse. With so many other national restaurant chains switching to cage-free eggs, IHOP should stop clinging to its policy of only getting its eggs from the archaic practice of confining hens in barren wire cages. I wonder what type of brand damage is happening to IHOP when it’s now become directly linked to animal cruelty.
  2. Monday, September 21st, 2009
    great to see greater awareness on how non-farm like food production has become in this country!
  3. Beth J
    Monday, September 21st, 2009
    With so many others serving cage-free eggs and more of us learning about (and being horrified by) battery cages--not to mention the science strongly in favor and the new law--IHOP has no excuse not to give the hens at least a little breathing room. It the only decent thing to do.
  4. Matt S
    Monday, September 21st, 2009
    Ugh. I will never eat IHOP again. I eat eggs, but battery cages are just plain cruel. Shape up, IHOP!
  5. Mike
    Monday, September 21st, 2009
    The author of this piece isn't just about promoting "cage-free" chickens/eggs. He would prefer IHOP didn't serve eggs at all. Or bacon. Or sausage. Or milk.

    Don't be fooled...or actually believe that Denny's and the others are using a lot of cage-free eggs. They aren't; just a percent or two to keep animal rights groups of their back (for now).
  6. Maxine Earle
    Monday, September 21st, 2009
    Until IHOP makes the switch to cage-free eggs, they can kiss my business goodbye. I don't support animal cruelty, and the images that I saw in that video were beyond cruel. Get with the times, IHOP, and go cage-free!
  7. Ryan
    Monday, September 21st, 2009
    Cage-free definitely isn’t cruelty-free, but it’s a whole lot better than battery cage confinement. IHOP should make the change.
  8. Monday, September 21st, 2009
    Mr. Shapiro makes many excellent points, but the one that jumps out at me is the lack of laws protecting animals in factory farms. Having been inside a battery shed, I know the conditions in which egg-laying hens exist are anything but humane. The hens are crammed into tiny wire cages with other birds, leaving practically no room to move. Most people abhor this kind of cruelty to animals, and it's time that IHOP's business practices reflect mainstream values. It's not about money -- it's about compassion for the animals from whom we ask so much. They deserve it.
  9. Elizabeth
    Monday, September 21st, 2009
    Thanks for getting the word out about IHOP. I saw the undercover investigation and thought it was disgusting. It's amazing that IHOP even resists using a small percentage of cage-free when it seems like every other company is doing so.
  10. MFR
    Monday, September 21st, 2009
    This is a well-written piece. Not only would it be better for animals, but it's clearly in IHOP's own competitive interests to move away from using eggs from caged hens.
  11. bestuvall
    Monday, September 21st, 2009
    Great .. I LOVE IHOP.. I will continue to eat there every chance I get....I SUPPORT FARMERS AND THEIR FAMILIES.. not every farmer can switch to "cage free" overnight.. PEOPLE FIRST.. FEED THE NATION.. FEED THE WORLD
  12. Elizabeth
    Monday, September 21st, 2009
    There's simply no reason for IHOP to continue with this cruel buying policy. If the company won't remove eggs from its menus altogether, it could at least take the modest step of buying cage-free eggs, for the animals and for IHOP's standing in the competitive market. It's a no-brainer!
  13. Sarah
    Monday, September 21st, 2009
    GROSS! that video is really sickening. i'm shocked that this is legal -- both what they're doing to the birds and that they can serve eggs produced in such unsanitary conditions
  14. Juli
    Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
    Check out these articles on the Humane Society's website for more info, related articles, and how to get in contact with IHOP. http://www.hsus.org/farm/news/ournews/ihops_animal_cruelty_091609.html
    and
    http://www.hsus.org/farm/news/ournews/ihops_defense_rebuttal_091709.html
  15. Jaya Bhumitra
    Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
    #11 - Nobody is asking farmers to switch to cage-free overnight - but to at least start the process. Additionally, these farmers and their families that you support are not actually benefiting from all this - they are being put out of business by the FACTORY farms - a handful of massive businesses that have put the small, family farmers out of business. Here is a good blog post related to this subject: http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2009/07/factory-farm.html
  16. William
    Friday, September 25th, 2009
    Hopefully, IHOP will just switch to using egg replacer. It won't change the taste, and IHOP will get many more customers.
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