Friday, November 06, 2015

Taco Bell not phasing out antibiotics in chickens; customers prefer lower prices to animal welfare

While it's becoming the norm for fast-food chains to commit to switching to chickens raised free of antibiotics and eggs raised from cage-free chickens, Taco Bell has made no such announcements, mostly because it doesn't think it has to, Roberto Ferdman reports for The Washington Post. "All of the brands belonging to Yum! Brands—Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut—were given an F grade in a recent report by six organizations on industry sourcing practices. What's more, it has made no clear promises to fix that."

The closest the company has come to phasing out antibiotics was last year, "when Greg Creed, who used to served as Taco Bell's CEO but now is at the helm of Yum! Brands, told The Wall Street Journal that he would like for Taco Bell and its sister brands to switch to hormone and antibiotic-free meat but that it wasn't currently possible," Ferdman writes. "There hasn't been a peep about animal welfare since."

"More humane farming practices are less efficient and, therefore, more costly," Ferdman writes. While some chains can get away with raising prices, cheap food has always been the sales pitch at Taco Bell. Darren Tristano, who is the executive vice president of a restaurant market research firm called Technomic, told Ferdman, "Taco Bell is at such a low price point, even for fast food, that their value proposition makes it really hard to switch to any sourcing that will affect price."

Ferdman writes, "The simplest explanation, however, is that Taco Bell hasn't followed the industry because it doesn't have to. Its customers are young, like those of its competitors, but they are predominantly male, which, according to Technomic's 2015 food trend report, means they're less likely to care about animal welfare. They also aren't quite as affluent as those who frequent other chains, which, Tristano points out, likely means they are more price sensitive." Tristano told Ferdman, "The lower you get down the price points, the more your consumer has to prefer lower prices to better animal welfare rights. So I think it's also reflection of how Taco Bell's customers feel." (Read more)

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