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McDonald’s pig policy fight escalates with board nominations

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A row over the treatment of pigs by McDonald’s is escalating as Carl Icahn, an unhappy billionaire investor, fronts two nominations to its board.

Mr Icahn has proposed that Leslie Samuelrich and Maisie Ganzler stand for election at the 2022 annual meeting, a statement by the fast food giant says.

It adds that he claims to own 200 shares, giving him a minority stake.

Pork is used in several products at McDonald’s and Mr Icahn has said how the animals are reared is “obscene”.

Mr Icahn said the American chain used suppliers that housed pregnant pigs in small crates, in a practice he argued was cruel.

He had asked all McDonald’s pork suppliers in the US to move to “crate-free pork”, along timeframes he had set, the company said on Sunday.

“While the Company looks forward to promoting further collaboration across the industry on this issue, the current pork supply in the US would make this type of commitment impossible,” it said.

McDonald’s pledged to stop ordering pork from suppliers putting pregnant pigs in crates, back in 2012.

The firm said it had “led the industry” since then and around a third of US pork suppliers have moved to group housing systems.

It said it expected to source 85% to 90% of its pork from these suppliers by the year’s end.

All of the pork it buys will come from these suppliers by 2024.

The chain also noted that Mr Icahn was the majority owner of Viskase, which makes and supplies packaging for the pork and poultry industry.

It added that he had “not publicly called” on Viskase to make similar commitments. Mr Icahn did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment.

As the founder and controlling shareholder of Icahn Enterprises, Mr Icahn has a net worth of $16.8bn (£12.3bn), according to Forbes.

He previously spent several months advising former US President Donald Trump on regulatory reform, before stepping down amid controversy.

However he is unlikely to succeed with the nominations, observers said.

“Mr Icahn’s profile means McDonald’s feels a need to respond even though his stake is so small,” Mak Yuen Teen, a professor at NUS Business School in Singapore, told the BBC.

“It does seem that McDonald’s has been rather slow in fulfilling this particular commitment made 10 years ago. It’s only now that it’s accelerating the fulfilment when activists are publicly highlighting it.”

McDonald’s said it sources only approximately 1% of US pork production, and that it does not own any sows, or produce or package pork in the country.

It said the board would evaluate Mr Icahn’s nominees “as it would any other candidates”.

Source: BBC

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