Fast-Food Industry Need to Make Some Fast Changes, Ranking Says

Domino’s and Papa John’s rank worst in FOUR PAWS new global fast-food chain assessment, ignoring topics like animal welfare and climate change


BOSTON - NOVEMBER 8, 2021 – 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. Consumers are concerned about issues surrounding climate change, sustainability, health, and animal welfare. Harnessing that momentum, FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organization, released today a ground-breaking ranking of fast-food companies as part of its Atlas Challenge initiative.

Overall, FOUR PAWS set out to determine if these companies are taking the necessary steps to play their part in climate mitigation by reducing the amount of meat and fish products offered and by increasing plant-based food options along with other innovative meat and fish alternatives.

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 included the countries where these chains had the highest number of locations outside their headquarter countries. The companies’ level of effort and performance on their innovative food strategies for meat and fish-based substitutes were also assessed and scored. For example, it was noted if companies had a Corporate Social Responsibility Report (CSR), if they incorporated Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs), animal welfare, traceability, or meat reduction into their policies.

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, 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 opened just recently with a 50% plant-based menu.

The majority 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 give the plant-based version a shot.

While the majority announces that they want to expand their plant-based menu in the future, these options are often only available temporarily or in just a few stores and choice is limited. FOUR PAWS sees it as a good sign though that more and more chains are partnering with manufacturers of plant-based meat substitutes long-term.

The lowest scores were achieved by Papa John’s, Wimpy, Nando’s and Domino’s: Their CSRs – 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.

By now, most of the big fast-food chains acknowledge the crucial role that animal protein, and particularly meat, plays in climate change. But so far, 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 kept in terrible conditions, contributing 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 in their CSR strategies.

This is intended to reduce the excessive production and consumption of animal-based foods and to stand up against the industrial farming of animals.

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. Another tactic, FOUR PAWS is also collecting signatures from the public with a goal of 100,000. The organization aims, through efforts like the Atlas Challenge, to guide these companies down a path that is best for humans, animals, and the planet.

*The key fast-food chains were selected from the previous fast-food chain ranking focused on Europe and the United Kingdom 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. 

Share now!