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.