Following more than five months of discussions with PETA,  Jacksonville-based supermarket chain Winn-Dixie, which has 520 stores throughout Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, has announced plans to adopt animal welfare standards for its suppliers. Specifically, the steps address farm and slaughter practices for some chickens and pigs, company officials report. This action follows more than five months of discussions with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

According to its new plan, Winn-Dixie will do the following:

  • Give purchasing preference to suppliers that use or switch to controlled-atmosphere killing for poultry. It will begin purchasing 5 percent of its turkeys from suppliers that use this method by late 2010.
  • Give purchasing preference to suppliers that don't use gestation-sow crates, and increase the total amount of pork that it purchases from crate-free facilities by 5 percent annually over the next three years.
  • Give purchasing preference to producers of cage-free eggs; increase the amount of cage-free eggs that it sells to 4 percent by the end of 2009 and 5 percent by the end of 2010, and work toward reaching 10 percent within the next five years.

PETA, which owns shares in Winn-Dixie, had a shareholder proposal which called for a report on progress made toward improving animal welfare practices. It had been submitted for inclusion at the company's 2008 annual meeting. PETA has since withdrawn that proposal.

Winn-Dixie's new animal welfare plan is similar to those PETA has negotiated with Safeway, Harris Teeter, Burger King, Carl's Jr., Hardee's, and other companies over the last 18 months.

"We always urge shoppers to choose the great vegetarian foods offered by Winn-Dixie, but we commend the company for taking steps to reduce the suffering of some of the animals killed for its freezer cases," says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk.