Pal’s Sudden Service hamburger chain has developed a unique operating model and organizational culture in the fast food restaurant business. With an emphasis on process control, zero errors, and extensive employee training and engagement, Pal’s has been able to achieve excellent performance in an extremely competitive industry. Professor Gary Pisano discusses the company’s strategic challenge of deciding how much to grow and whether its organizational model will scale.

The restaurant industry is in a slump and one of the culprits is the popularity of desktop dining. The number of Americans going out to lunch hit its lowest level in four decades. People don’t have time for a one-hour lunch, they want to save money or their employers provide meals for free. Desktop dining cost the industry $3.2 billion last year.

People are leading busier lives that give them less time to cook at home, and yet more restaurants are losing money and shutting down. The two seemingly conflicting facts can be explained in one word: takeout. The trend toward people eating more food away from home continues to rise, so it seems to be largely a takeout story.

Consumption of food outside the home accounts for about half of total food spending, a number that has held steady for about 12 years. Since there hasn’t been an increase, the downshift in the restaurant industry is on macroeconomic forces and competition from supermarkets.

It’s the demand of consumers for convenience. They have less time, they have more flexible hours, so they want to have lunch more quickly. Restaurants are going to be working on deliveries much harder in the future.

One of the points that has not been emphasized enough is that people are concerned about their health and they want to have more control of the meals that they have in terms of the size and the quality.

Here’s where supermarkets come in. Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Kroger, Publix and other grocers offer an array of prepared meals that customers can grab and go. They are pulling in customers who don’t have time for a sit-down meal or to cook at home.

The prices of food at supermarkets, relative to the prices of food at restaurants, has been declining over the past five years. This is definitely playing in favor of the supermarket sector because people are finding cheaper food in the supermarket.

More restaurants are offering breakfast, chasing the trend of consumers who are going out for their first meal of the day. But breakfast meals have a smaller ticket, so that also has an impact on restaurants. That revenue gap is widened by the loss of alcohol sales from customers who don’t linger in a restaurant over lunch or dinner. Sale of alcohol is a factor on margin. If people are doing takeout or delivery, that sale is entirely gone.

The fast-casual chain Panera recently announced it intends to hire more employees to begin delivery service, a smart move that could help the company capture a large share of office workers who want to eat in.

But not every restaurant will be able to follow suit. So few of the chains have been able to specialize in delivery service. The pizza space is the exception, and something like two-thirds of delivery meals are still pizza. Those casual dining chains, the sit-down ones, it’s a bigger step for them to go to delivery than the fast-casual chains that just crank out the meals.

Adapting to delivery introduces a plateful of logistics for which many restaurants aren’t ready. It’s harder because of the type of meals that they offer and their big investments in having people come to their restaurants and spend time there.

Food service is one of the largest employment sectors because it is a labor-intensive activity. As restaurants adjust their business models, employees will be affected in terms of scheduling, positions and pay. There’s also minimum wage pressure on these restaurants. For the chains, as they think about their strategic futures and their costs, that’s going to be a big piece of it.

The impact will also hit the supply chain. It’s interesting because from the supply-chain perspective, when you are serving restaurants, your business model is completely different than when you are serving the supermarket industry in terms of packaging standards and presentation of the product. In the grocery store, products are usually sold fresh, so you want them to look good.

Labor costs will be a major issue for restaurants in the future. They’ve got changing customer preferences, the changing nature of the supply chain and changing labor pressures. The ones who win will be the ones who figure out how best to manage that. It’s not easy. It’s not a trivial job to do it right and provide the customer with an in-restaurant delightful experience that’s not going to annoy them in some way.

More restaurants are turning to technology to lure customers through apps that can manage reward points or facilitate ordering. Even if you want to eat on the premises, you see people who want to order in advance. If you are not applying technology, you are going to be way behind the industry standards for business models.

Consumers may not want to deal with app overload. One thing we do have to think about with each of these brands having an app is how many apps consumers are willing to have on their phone. And those aren’t small investments to get the app going and the kinds of services that people are going to want.

Restaurants can turn the tables on sliding sales by focusing on their customers. They should keep the focus on consumers and understand what the consumers want and how they are consuming meals. Why are they going less and less to restaurants? Really, at the end, consumers are king. Restaurants are there to make them happy, keep them coming and keep them loyal. They just need to adapt.

Starbucks is an example of success. In the early 2000s, when they started getting new consumers who wanted faster, good-quality coffee but they didn’t want to linger, they changed their business model, and they are what they are today.

But it’s tough to keep up with customers when tastes are fickle. The companies that do the best prediction of consumer preferences and can execute on it are going to win. The mix of fine dining and quick serve is always going to be there in the same individual.

You should never eat in restaurants, because they use a lot of salt and sugar for better taste, putting the health of their customers at risk.  By law, certain levels of rodent and insect filth are also permitted in food. Moreover, the handling of paper money brings a lot of germs to the food served. Paper money has more germs than any other substance on Earth. 

Soda consumption has been linked with diabetes, hypertension, kidney stones, and tooth decay. Cola beverages, in particular, contain phosphoric acid and have been associated with urinary changes that promote kidney stones.

Human feces were found in Coke cans in bottling plants. The night shift at a Coca-Cola plant was disrupted when a container of cans clogged up the machines, only for workers to discover a number were filled with human waste! It was absolutely horrible, and the machines had to be turned off for about 15 hours to be cleaned. 

Some migrants have made that long journey in the lorry and in their desperation were forced to use the cans instead of a toilet.  Cans arrive at factories without tops on, to be filled with the fizzy drink before they are sealed and sold.

Brian Kenny: The hamburger. It’s as American as apple pie, which means that it’s actually European. Both foods trace their origins to Europe and were likely brought here by early colonists or later waves of immigrants. So, the hamburger may not have been invented in the US, but it was certainly perfected and popularized here, in large part due to the arrival of fast food restaurants. White Castle opened its first restaurant in Wichita, Kansas in 1921, selling hamburgers for five cents. They set the standard for fast food production that McDonald’s and others adopted 30 years later.

In the decades since, the industry and its practices have evolved exponentially. Competition is fierce and margins razor thin–except for one player. Gary Pisano’s teaching and research focus on strategy, innovation management, and manufacturing, among other things. He also advises CEOs at leading companies around the world, and he probably likes hamburgers as well. Gary thanks for joining us today.

Gary Pisano: Thank you. I do like hamburgers.

Kenny: Did you eat some Pal’s hamburgers in the making of this case?

Pisano: I did. I have to say I’m not a person who eats a lot of meat. I don’t eat fast food. So, when I went down there they asked me to sample some of the food, and I happily did, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was actually quite good.

Kenny: Being from the northeast, Pal’s isn’t a chain that I’m familiar with. I think a lot of people might be hearing about them for the first time, but clearly a lot of people have enjoyed their for food over the years and they’ve done very, very well. How does the case begin? Who is the protagonist and what’s on his mind?

Pisano: The case protagonist is their CEO, Tom Crosby, and it begins with Tom trying to think about the future path for this organization and particularly how much to grow. They have 28 stores. All but two are drive-through. They’ve been quite successful and now have the capital to expand much more if they’d like. They’ve had a slow-growth strategy, so they haven’t grown for the sake of it. They grow when they’ve felt they’ve been operationally ready to grow. They’re privately owned. That’s why they could do that. So, there’s very deliberate growth strategy, about one to two new outlets per year. The case begins where he’s thinking, is it time to accelerate the growth to go up to between 25 and 50 new stores over the next five to ten years?

Kenny: How did you hear about them?

Pisano: I was working on a research study with a couple of collaborators here at HBS and elsewhere, and we had been doing research on the effect of teaching on your own performance: If you teach people to do things does it help you do better?

“If you were to do a standard strategy analysis of the QSR industry you would quickly come to the conclusion this is a terrible business to be in”

I believe it was Brad who came across an interview with Tom Crosby, and a key part of what Tom talked about was their model at Pal’s, where leaders are expected to teach, and so we said, “Aha.” This might be an opportunity to examine what we’ve studied by and large in lab settings, and understand how this “leaders as teacher” model plays out in reality. We contacted Tom and he was very open to us writing a case, and we learned … there’s more to Pal’s than just the leaders as teachers.

Kenny: Where do they sit in the landscape of quick service restaurants, that sector, and how it shapes up?

Pisano: Well, it’s quite competitive as you know. If you were to do a standard strategy analysis of the QSR industry you would quickly come to the conclusion this is a terrible business to be in because its rivalry is intense. Barriers to entry are quite low, particularly now–think about new formats like food trucks. So, if you’ve got $20,000 you can kind of get into that business in some fashion. [Consumers have] easy substitutes. You don’t have to eat fast food, you could pick up things at the grocery store. There’s lots of other convenient ways to eat and very often if you’re talking about suppliers, these big food suppliers have a lot of bargaining power, and the customers are very price sensitive.

Put all this together in a kind of standard, traditional competitive strategy analysis and you conclude this has got to be a terrible business. Particularly for a smaller player like Pal’s. Maybe I can understand how McDonald’s gets some scale, but how does a Pal’s do so well? So that I found intriguing, as one who also teaches operations about how they use their whole operating system as a way to gain advantage and create considerable value and capture value in a sector where, in essence, the environment is quite hostile from a competitive point of view.

Kenny: How did Pal’s evolve?

Pisano: Their first store was [was in the mid-1950s] and I think they were inspired by (McDonald’s founder) Ray Kroc. But you know, the difference was they had two stores for the first 20 years–it was really a local drive-thru restaurant. When Tom became CEO, I guess about 15, 18 years ago, it was slow. It continued to grow but again we’re talking one to two stores (per year). So, they’re up to 28. Put that in perspective; I think McDonald’s has 35 thousand globally… So, you talk about the difference here and the scaling and the scalability.

Kenny: I think the case points out that between stores number three and four at Pal’s there was … a 20-year hiatus.

Pisano: Almost all the growth has occurred in the last 20 years, and again we’re still talking about a fairly small player and that’s what raises the kind of salient issue in the case which is, can they continue to take it to the next level? They’ve created something pretty special there. They’re doing well financially. They’ve got a unique HR system and unique operating system. The whole question for the students to grapple with is, does it scale?

Kenny: And they’ve got a really unique approach to managing each individual store. Can you talk about the owner-operator model?

Pisano: A few things they do differently, and I think one is the owner-operator model. The vast majority of quick-serve restaurants are franchised and the way franchised works is you sell a right to use the brand and you sell the “know how,” the intellectual property if you will, the processes, but to an independent investor who appoints their own management and they have to follow the rules. That’s the way traditional franchising works. The advantage of franchising is you don’t put out the capital. That’s how you grow quickly. Pal’s doesn’t franchise. They are owned, all of their own stores. They put in charge of each store somebody they call an owner-operator.

Now, the owner-operator doesn’t really own the store. They’re employees, but the way they empower the owner-operator and the way they compensate them, it’s as if they own that store… They look for and recruit these people, somebody who could be the CEO of their own business. And so the owner-operators are completely responsible for their store operations. Other than setting the menu and setting prices, they determine staffing, they determine how the place operates. They determine even, I think, the wages they pay. The compensation model is unique, After deducting for some kind of corporate charges and some required investment, the profit is theirs to keep. So, they don’t have a salary. When they first start they get some guaranteed minimum salary but after after a couple of years it’s basically that their salary is the profit of the business.

Kenny: Works out pretty well for them?

“A Pal’s owner-operator makes between two point five and ten times the industry average”

Pisano: Works out pretty well. A Pal’s owner-operator makes between two point five and ten times the industry average for a QSR store manager.

Kenny: I saw that and thought, gee, maybe I should become an owner-operator. But then I saw the interview process that they put the owner-operators through. Can you talk about how rigorous that is?

Pisano: They go through an incredibly rigorous process. Tom interviews each one of these people multiple times. I think he said the minimum was 12. And the maximum was 22. He requires them to read books. He doesn’t tell them to read the book. He leaves the book on his desk and he waits to see if they pick it up. If they don’t pick it up or don’t notice it, they aren’t invited back. He wants curious. He takes the whole idea of the learning organization incredibly seriously. Everybody talks about the learning organization but I have to say, 80 percent of the time, that’s lip service.

This is not lip service. He wants these people to be engaged and he’s really looking for their attitude as well as their aptitude. They follow a similarly rigorous process when they recruit new people into what they call their Leadership Development Program. These people go through an extremely extensive interview process. They meet all the other owner-operators. Again, to see that they are a good cultural fit for the organization. They select incredibly carefully.

Kenny: The process seems to work when you talk about the longevity of the owner-operators. They don’t leave. That’s a career choice.

Pisano: Very low turnover, and again this is an industry which has high turnover at all levels. They have low turnover even at the staff level relative to the industry, but also extremely low at the owner-operator level. These are very coveted positions. We met some of the people going into their Leadership Development Program. They were all college graduates. One woman had been in the Navy, was trained in nuclear engineering. They called this their golden opportunity program. They see this as an opportunity to become entrepreneurs, to be in their own business, but as part of this broader organization…

Kenny: Certainly counter to all of the impressions that you might have of working in a QSR restaurant, they treat their employees really well, but it’s not easy.

Pisano: I think they have created a very attractive environment that fits into the broader system, the culture there. I think the key to their system and why they do well is, well, if you kind of break it down, how are they profitable? Volume is everything in this business. You’ve got to be able to get people through quickly. This is a fixed-cost business. Pal’s is not going to do better on the variable cost in terms of buying their food less expensively. Where they’re going to do better is being able to get high revenue per square foot and get people in and out. This is particularly important because meal time only comes at certain times of the day. So, if there’s a long line, it’s not like they are going to come back later. It’s called quick serve, right? They’re going to leave.

Pal’s has worked really hard at designing a system which gets you in and out really fast and they track religiously the cycle time of the cars coming in and out. They call it Wheels Stop to Wheels Start. If you think about it, it’s strictly drive-thru by and large. All but two of the stores are just drive-thru. From the time the wheels of a car stop to the time they start they want that to be almost like an assembly line. Every 18 seconds. That’s what they’re shooting for, regardless of the order. They’ve designed everything to be really fast. But a key part of that is having extremely high quality, because errors slow you down. That’s particularly problematic in a layout where you have a single file of cars. If one order is held up or you got somebody’s order wrong, that just causes the queue to back up. That’s why they’re so obsessive about the quality, and the case points out that they have one error every 3,600 orders. That, the average for the fast food industry is one every 15 orders. So, that shows you how they’re doing.

Kenny: Amazing.

Pisano: They check, but that checking is another two, three seconds and then if it’s wrong it’s going to add more time. This is that obsession [on] quality. That’s easy to talk about but hard to do, and that comes down to a very high degree of process discipline. You get that through culture. This starts with people and it starts with culture.

Kenny: We did a post with Jan Rivkin about Lego, and we talked about the fact that it took Lego, I don’t know, eight years to decide to add a green Lego. Here, it took Pal’s three years to decide to add bacon to the menu because any little thing that you put into that process that requires a different set of practices could throw a wrinkle into the whole thing.

Pisano: Absolutely. So, they want to have total control over their processes. They document their processes in detail. There’s a spec for everything and again, the spec doesn’t just say you put mustard on the bun. It’s that you put mustard a quarter inch from the edge of the bun or the amount that a hotdog bun should opened–the right angle so you don’t break the hinge. By having a limited menu they have a limited number of processes and they train everybody in every process. Before you’re allowed to make French fries you have to be certified, and then re-certified periodically.

“Before you’re allowed to make French fries you have to be certified, and then re-certified periodically”

Kenny: I was interested in that. What do they call it? Recalibration?

Pisano: Calibration. You go through a process where you have to demonstrate that you can do the process a hundred percent right. They call it their Triple 100, a hundred right, a hundred percent of the time, at one hundred percent volume. Every several months they recheck you again to make sure you’re capable of doing that.

You’ve got to keep the operation simple. One of the ways you keep it simple is you don’t add menu items to it too often because you could add processes. There is this dilemma here between how static you keep the menu to keep the operational efficiency up but do you run the risk of becoming stale. Now, that hasn’t happened. They seem to have a very loyal customer base but unlike, say, a McDonald’s, which does add things quite frequently, they’re choosing not to do that. It’s a great example of a company with a clear understanding of their strategy and sticking to it and understanding what the trade-offs are and willing to tolerate what those trade-offs are. I think that’s a hallmark of excellent strategy.

Kenny: I also found it interesting that, I think it was Tom … who had the insight that they’re not in the food service business. They’re in the manufacturing business.

Pisano: That’s right. This is a great example where it’s a so-called service industry. It would show up on our GDP as service but as Tom points out, look, they take raw materials, they convert it into a finished physical product that people take away and eat. That’s manufacturing and they came to that recognition about 20 years ago. Once they did, they began to design and manage all of their processes like they were a factory, and they say that works really well for them.

Kenny: You discussed the case yesterday with some Executive Education students. What’s the reaction like?

Pisano: I really enjoy teaching the case and it’s a bit of an eye-opener. The general managers, Tom and the owner-operators, they’re the heads of HR so they take HR very seriously. And it’s an eye-opener for students to realize what it takes to create such an organization … trying to understand what does that mean in terms of the dilemma of growing? It does make it harder to grow, and this is an organization which, rather than setting an arbitrary growth goal of saying, we need 50 new stores a year and then do whatever it takes to get (there), they kind of work backward and say, what’s the key resource here? The key resource is the talent of our people and the leaders. So, what’s our capacity to generate new leaders? They open stores when they have a new leader ready.

Kenny: Really excellent insights from an unexpected place, I’d say.

Pisano: Absolutely, but there’s a lot of interesting things going on in the food world. I have lots of other food cases that I’m working on that I enjoy doing and I enjoy eating.

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods. Cut back on foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and trans fats. Eat more whole-grain foods, fish, poultry, and nuts. Limit sodium, sweets, sugary drinks, and red meats.

The Venitis diet is based on salmon, brown rice, whole wheat bread, chocolate-almond dragees, walnuts, and all fruits and vegetables.

Dietary changes are used to treat certain medical conditions, rather than drugs or surgery. We can, through an altered diet or behavior, to shape the microbiome to improve health. The gut microbiome is the second genome, the first being our own.  This second genome is plastic and responsive to the way we choose to live our lives.

Addiction to fat, sugar, salt, and cola is killing you.  Medical research shows our health is greatly affected by what we eat.  Eat an abundant variety of vegetables. Choose a rainbow of fruits every day. Choose whole grains, such whole wheat bread, brown spaghetti, and brown rice. Choose fish, poultry, beans, or nuts, which contain healthful nutrients. Use olive and other plant oils in cooking, on salads, and at the table, because they reduce harmful cholesterol and are good for the heart. 

Sugar and sugary products are bad not only for your waistline, but for your brain function as well. Long-term consumption of sugar can create a wealth of neurological problems, and it can also interfere with your memory. On the other hand, sugar can also interfere with your ability to learn, this is why it is recommended to avoid pre-baked goods, sugar, corn syrup and products that are high in fructose.

Fat and sugar aren’t simply unhealthy, but they hijack the brain in ways that resemble addictions to drugs.  Food is addictive!  Lab studies have found sugary drinks and fatty foods can produce addictive behavior. Brain scans of obese people and compulsive eaters reveal disturbances in brain reward circuits similar to those experienced by drug abusers.

Food companies now face the most drawn-out consumer safety battle since the anti-smoking movement took on the tobacco industry a generation ago.  No one disputes that obesity is a fast growing global problem. In the West, a third of adults and a fifth of teens and children are obese.

The cost to society is enormous. Moderate obesity reduces life expectancy by four years, while severe obesity shortens life expectancy by ten years. Obesity has been shown to boost the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and stroke. The annual cost of treating illness associated with obesity in the West is estimated at half trillion euros.

A few years ago, Starbucks’ popular Strawberry and Crème Frappuccino got its pink color not from strawberries, but from a dye made of crushed-up cochineal insects. Vegan consumers cried foul, and mainstream media outlets picked up the story. So, Starbucks decided to stop using cochineal extract and start using lycopene to dye its drinks pink instead.

Lycopene is a red pigment found in several fruits, but strawberries are not among them. The lycopene that now colors strawberry Frappuccinos is tomato-based. The upshot: in lieu of bugs, Starbucks is using tomatoes to make its strawberry-flavored drinks look more strawberry-like. It’s a natural ingredient, but not what nature intended. Yet that part of the story didn’t garner headlines. While crushed-up bugs may alarm some people, most of us tend to take the fact of food coloring for granted.

Today, we tend to view color as an ingredient. In the food industry, color standardization meant asserting the idea of naturalness, even as manufacturers imposed a ‘natural’ color through artificial dyes.

Take butter, for example. The color of butter fluctuates, depending on the season. From early summer through early autumn, cows eat green grass, which is rich in the orange pigment beta-carotene. The pigment colors the fat in the cows’ milk, which gives the butter a golden color. But, in winter, cows don’t eat grass. Rather, they eat grain, which, unless it has been genetically modified, does not contain much beta-carotene.  Thus, winter butter is whiter than summer butter. It’s also arguably less tasty. Because the flavor of butter was richer in the summer, there was the impression that the yellow golden color was better, too. So producers started coloring their winter butter with a golden shade to make it look tasty. The color was known as June shade.

The practice dates back to at least the fourteenth century in Europe. Dairy farmers would color their butter with carrot juice and annatto, a dye derived from achiote tree seeds, to make their butter look summery all year round. Late in the nineteenth century, dye manufacturers started supplying synthetic food coloring to dairy producers for the purpose of coloring butter and cheese, which essentially spearheaded the synthetic food dye industry.

Throughout the twentieth century, consumer watchdogs and activists opposed the use of chemical additives in food, and they continue to do so today. Major companies have responded to the demand. Nestlé pledged to remove artificial color from its candy bars in 2015, for example. General Mills promised in the same year to phase out artificial colors from its cereals. And Kraft’s signature macaroni and cheese no longer comes packaged with a Day-Glo orange powder, thanks to a pledge to stop using artificial dyes (Yellow 5 and Yellow 6) in the product. Due to consumer protests against synthetic colors, the standardization of color moved from being an opportunity to being a challenge for food manufacturers. That said, color continues to be an important ingredient in packaged foods.

Global Animal Partnership (GAP) is an international animal welfare rating program which includes the following:

  • Using breeds with measurably improved welfare because most chickens are bred to grow so fast that many collapse under their own weight
  • Ending extreme crowding and providing each chicken more floor space
  • Keeping chicken litter clean enough to prevent eye sores, flesh burns, and respiratory distress
  • Improving lighting standards, including at least six hours of darkness each night and 50 lux of light during the day, to decrease illness and disease
  • Ending live-shackle slaughter in favor of less cruel systems, such as controlled-atmosphere stunning, which eliminates the suffering caused by shackling, shocking, and slitting the throats of conscious animals

It is time for leading restaurant chains to ban needless abuse from their supply chains. Consumers are demanding companies ban the cruelest practices from their supply chains, and those that fail to do so are quickly falling behind competitors. The best way for individual consumers to protect chickens and other farmed animals from cruelty is simply to leave them off their plates.

Here are five reasons for giving up meat:

  1. The environmental impact is huge

Livestock farming has a vast environmental footprint. It contributes to land and water degradation, biodiversity loss, acid rain, coral reef degeneration and deforestation.

Nowhere is this impact more apparent than climate change – livestock farming contributes 18% of human produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This is more than all emissions from ships, planes, trucks, cars and all other transport put together.

Climate change alone poses multiple risks to health and well-being through increased risk of extreme weather events – such as floods, droughts and heatwaves – and has been described as the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century.

Reducing consumption of animal products is essential if we are to meet global greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets – which are necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. 

  1. It requires masses of grain, water, and land

Meat production is highly inefficient – this is particularly true when it comes to red meat. To produce one kilogram of beef requires 25 kilograms of grain – to feed the animal – and roughly 15,000 liters of water. Pork is a little less intensive and chicken less still.

The scale of the problem can also be seen in land use: around 30% of the earth’s land surface is currently used for livestock farming. Since food, water and land are scarce in many parts of the world, this represents an inefficient use of resources.

  1. It hurts the global poor

Feeding grain to livestock increases global demand and drives up grain prices, making it harder for the world’s poor to feed themselves. Grain could instead be used to feed people, and water used to irrigate crops.

If all grain were fed to humans instead of animals, we could feed an extra 3.5 billion people. In short, industrial livestock farming is not only inefficient but also not equitable.

  1. It causes unnecessary animal suffering

If we accept, as many people do, that animals are sentient creatures whose needs and interests matter, then we should ensure these needs and interests are at least minimally met and that we do not cause them to suffer unnecessarily.

Industrial livestock farming falls well short of this minimal standard. Most meat, dairy and eggs are produced in ways that largely or completely ignore animal welfare – failing to provide sufficient space to move around, contact with other animals, and access to the outdoors.

In short, industrial farming causes animals to suffer without good justification.

  1. It is making us ill

At the production level, industrial livestock farming relies heavily on antibiotic use to accelerate weight gain and control infection – in the US, 80% of all antibiotics are consumed by the livestock industry.

This contributes to the growing public health problem of antibiotic resistance. Already, more than 23,000 people are estimated to die every year in the US alone from resistant bacteria. As this figure continues to rise, it becomes hard to overstate the threat of this emerging crisis.

High meat consumption – especially of red and processed meat – typical of most rich industrialized countries is linked with poor health outcomes, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and various cancers.

These diseases represent a major portion of the global disease burden so reducing consumption could offer substantial public health benefits.

Currently, the average meat intake for someone living in a high-income country is 200-250g a day, far higher than the 80-90g recommended by the United Nations. Switching to a more plant-based diet could save up to 8 million lives a year worldwide by 2050 and lead to healthcare related savings and avoided climate change damages of up to $1.5 trillion.


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