Fast-Food = Faster Climate Change 

Industry Refuses to Connect Reduction of Meat Production to Climate Change Mitigation and Increased Animal Welfare, FOUR PAWS Report States 


MARCH 24, 2022 – FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organization, analyzed the performance of some of the leading global fast-food companies and created a business benchmark report on their strategies towards more animal- and climate-friendly nutrition. Overall, the latest Atlas Challenge ranking shows that meat reduction is still not on the agenda of the key fast-food chains on an international level. Although the demand for plant-based alternatives is on the rise, some chains still do not offer any plant-based meat substitutes nor vegetarian mains. The new report builds upon previous FOUR PAWS Atlas Challenge rankings of fast-food chains and compares how they scored on their commitment towards meat reduction.

To see where some of the top companies in the global fast-food industry stand in their meat reduction strategies and their plant-based progress, FOUR PAWS contacted the headquarters of 11 key international fast-food chains* and concentrated on comparing policies between the HQ countries (e.g. KFC in the U.S.) and the countries where the chains had the most outlets outside their headquarters (e.g. KFC in China). The companies’ level of effort and performance on their innovative food strategies for meat and fish-based substitutes were also assessed and scored.

It is common knowledge that factory farming and excessive consumption of meat have huge impacts on animals, the environment, human health and, specifically, climate change: Animal agriculture is one of the leading contributors of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Most shockingly, while climate policies were omni-present, not a single chain named the reduction of meat as a measure to reduce their carbon footprint. This omission negates the fact that the reduction of meat and other animal proteins is one of the most efficient ways to reduce greenhouse gases.

The results show that, while some fast-food chains are on the right track in upping their plant-based game, there is a lot of room for improvement: None of the assessed fast-food chains have any meat reduction goals in place and none were ranked as very good

The only good chain is Starbucks U.S. with a score of 55%, who offer vegan and vegetarian options as well as plant-based meat substitutes on a permanent basis. They also highlight that plant-based foods are better for the climate and announced to roll out their Greener Stores. Starbucks China also happens to be the best chain of the 5 Chinese branches assessed; in Shanghai, the first Greener Store has a 50% plant-based menu. 

During our research timeframe, most of the chains fall in the average category: 50% do not offer any plant-based main dishes or meat substitutes at all, and McDonald’s U.S. and KFC U.S. even fail to offer any vegetarian mains. At Burger King U.S. and Subway U.S., the meat substitutes are more expensive than their meat counterparts, which will likely not motivate meat-eaters to try the plant-based version. And even when meat substitutes are offered, they are only available on a limited time basis. 

The lowest scores were achieved by Papa John’s, Wimpy, Nando’s, and Domino’s: Their CSR policies – if publicly available at all – did not consider core topics like animal welfare, climate action, or the increase of plant-based alternatives. None – except Nando’s – offer plant-based main dishes and none put any substitutes for animal-based products on their menus. 

The demand for more plant-based foods is on the rise and nothing makes that clearer than options of plant-based meats appearing everywhere from fine dining to fast food. Yet, while most of the big fast-food chains acknowledge the crucial role that animal protein, and particularly meat, plays in climate change, not a single chain has taken responsibility and drawn the conclusion that the pro-active reduction of meat is key – not only to slow global warming, but also to reduce the number of animals suffering in factory farms. 

“There are an estimated 80 billion farmed animals worldwide slaughtered for human consumption every year: Their lives are comprised of immense suffering,” explained Danika Oriol-Morway, Country Director for FOUR PAWS’ Boston-based office. Oriol-Morway continued, “Then, there is the environmental degradation and natural resources exploitation from this industry: Greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector alone account for 16.5% of the global total caused by humans!”  

FOUR PAWS acknowledges that animal welfare, human health, and environmental protection are deeply connected. With billions of animals being farmed globally in terrible conditions that also contribute to the climate crisis, deforestation, and environmental degradation, it’s time for key players in the industry to step up and put sustainable food strategies on their agenda to become progressive planet-savvy pioneers.  

Thus, through the Atlas Challenge FOUR PAWS is highlighting the current practices of global fast-food companies; urging the food industry to commit to reducing their offering of meat and fish products; and increasing their plant-based portfolio as part of the animal welfare and environmental protection focus in their CSR strategies.  

After the successful launch of the Atlas Challenge in 2020 with a ranking on food delivery services and convenience food producers, FOUR PAWS continues to benchmark businesses in the food industry on their strategies of meat reduction.*  In addition, FOUR PAWS is also urging companies to change by collecting signatures of support from the public, with a goal of 100,000. The organization aims, through efforts like this and the Atlas Challenge, to guide these companies down a path that is best for humans, animals, and the planet.  

*The key fast-food chains in 2022 were selected from the previous fast-food chain ranking focused on Europe and the United Kingdom that was conducted by FOUR PAWS and launched in March 2021. 


FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need, and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

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