Billionaire investor goes after two board seats at McDonald’s to change treatment of pigs

Harry Wilmerding, DCNF

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn launched a proxy fight Monday for two board seats at McDonald’s Corp., pushing the company to change its treatment of pigs, according to the fast-food giant’s press release.

Icahn nominated Leslie Samuelrich and Maisie Ganzler for election at the company’s 2022 annual shareholder meeting on Sunday to improve the company’s treatment of pigs, McDonald’s said in a press release. Ichan owns a relatively small stake in McDonald’s, but he has been talking with the company and the Humane Society of the United States since early February, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“Mr. Icahn’s stated focus in making this nomination relates to a narrow issue regarding the Company’s pork commitment, which The Humane Society U.S. has already introduced through a shareholder proposal,” McDonald’s said in the press release.

Icahn has recently pushed McDonald’s to improve its treatment of pigs, calling for an end to the practice of using crates to house pregnant pigs so that they can’t move, the WSJ reported. Icahn reportedly demanded that the company require its U.S. suppliers to move to “crate-free” pork.

“Animals are one of the things I feel really emotional about,” Ichan told the WSJ. He highlighted his particular affection toward pigs and pointed to the animal’s intelligence.

Roughly 60% of McDonald’s pork comes from “confirmed pregnant sows” that are not housed in crates, the WSJ reported. That figure is reportedly expected to increase to nearly 90% by the end of 2022.

“While the Company looks forward to promoting further collaboration across the industry on this issue, the current pork supply in the U.S. would make this type of commitment impossible,” McDonald’s said in its press release. “Furthermore, it reflects a departure from the veterinary science used for large-scale production throughout the industry, and would harm the Company’s shared pursuit of providing customers with high quality products at accessible prices.”

Icahn owns just 200 shares of McDonald’s stock, according to the press release, worth around $50,000 as of early Monday. He is also the majority owner of Viskase, which supplies packaging for the pork and poultry industry.

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