Olive Garden Urged to Step to the Plate for People, Animals, and the Planet

The food industry impacts almost every sector of society. When food is produced irresponsibly, it can negatively impact workers, animals, and the environment. Animals are intensively confined by the billions, natural resources are polluted and expunged to feed the animals and ourselves, and workers throughout the food supply chain are exploited for paltry wages. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the needs of the growing population will not be met unless we markedly reduce the negative impacts of intensive production systems, and food production is aligned with both food and livelihood security.

Comprehensive solutions to negligent production practices are vital to ensuring our future. This is why AWI has joined a coalition of animal welfare, environmental, health, and worker advocacy organizations from across the country to urge companies with significant market power to make improvements to their standards that are connected to the overall health of society.

The coalition is addressing big problems, but aims to do so by providing practical improvements that companies can readily make. The campaign is based on five "Good Food" principles that were first adopted by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council and the Los Angeles Unified School District. The five principles state that companies must start improving

Animal welfare, by requiring third-party certification for farm animal husbandry and handling that mandates standards that are above minimum industry standards;
Environmental sustainability, by reducing or eliminating synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, reducing meat and dairy purchases, and adding more meat- and dairy-free entrée options;
Local economies, by prioritizing small and mid-sized agricultural and food-process operations within the local area or region;
Worker conditions, by providing safe and healthy workplaces and fair wages throughout the entire supply chain, from production to consumption; and
Health and nutrition, by including seasonal fruits and vegetables, using whole grains, and reducing salt, added sugar, and red and processed meat.

The first targets of the Good Food Now campaign are Olive Garden and its parent company, Darden Restaurants. As one of the largest full-service restaurant companies in the world, with over 1,500 locations and over 320 million meals served annually, Darden has the power and potential to help make a substantial shift to more responsible food industry practices. The Good Food Now campaign is asking that Darden shift 20 percent of its supplies by 2020 to sources that meet the Good Food principles.

Currently, Darden touts responsible practices in all five Good Food areas. For instance, the company says that its suppliers treat animals humanely. Yet, Darden’s actions do not match its rhetoric. After pressure from the coalition, Darden announced that it will phase out battery cages and gestation crates from its supply chain. This is a step in the right direction. However, there are many factors that are important to animal welfare that Darden has not addressed.

It is time for Olive Garden and Darden to do their part in improving our food system. Please join AWI in asking these companies to commit to better practices, by signing our petition at www.good-food-now.org/.

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