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Carl Icahn targets Kroger over pig welfare

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business

A month after setting his sights on McDonald’s over pig welfare, investor Carl Icahn has turned his attention to Kroger.

Icahn is planning to nominate two directors to the company’s board over the issue, the retailer said Tuesday. Shareholders will be able to vote for the nominees’ placement on the board at the company’s annual shareholder meeting. Kroger has not yet set a date for that meeting.

In a statement, Kroger said that it “heard from Mr. Icahn for the first time on Friday … during this conversation, Mr. Icahn voiced his concerns regarding animal welfare and the use of gestation crates in pork production.” Gestation crates are tiny stalls where mother pigs are held, their movements severely restricted.

“While Kroger is not directly involved in raising or the processing of any animals, we are committed to helping protect the welfare of animals in our supply chain,” Kroger said in its statement, adding that it expects “all suppliers will have transitioned away from gestation crates by 2025.”

Kroger added that it will review Icahn’s nominees, Alexis C. Fox and Margarita Paláu-Hernández, and offer recommendations on how shareholders should vote in its proxy statement.

Icahn made a similar move in February, when he nominated two new directors to McDonald’s board in an effort to push the burger chain to require all of its US-based pork suppliers to abandon the crates, which McDonald’s first promised to phase out a decade ago.

In a statement discussing Icahn’s nominations, McDonald’s said that by the end of 2022, 85% to 90% of its US pork will come from sows that aren’t housed in gestation crates. It expects to meet its 100% target by the end of 2024.

The company also pushed back on the proposal from Icahn, who the company said has “asked for new commitments,” including exclusively sourcing “crate free” pork.

“While the company looks forward to promoting further collaboration across the industry on this issue, the current pork supply in the US would make this type of commitment impossible,” McDonald’s said, noting that it sources 1% of pork produced in the United States, and does not own any sows itself.

In an interview with Bloomberg about his efforts, Icahn said that he’s upset by the conditions in which pigs are held.

“I really do feel emotional about these animals and the unnecessary suffering,” he said.

— CNN Business’s Julia Horowitz contributed to this report.

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