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National animal-welfare group targets Steak n Shake

January 14, 2010

Indianapolis burger chain Steak n Shake Inc. has a new shareholder: The Humane Society of the United States.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization bought $2,000 worth of Steak n Shake stock Wednesday in hopes of getting the company to work with food producers that use humane farming methods.

“Steak n Shake’s complete lack of meaningful movement on animal welfare puts the company at odds with its competition and public opposition to farm animal abuse,” the society's Matthew Prescott said in a prepared statement.

Individuals or organizations that own at least $2,000 of a company’s stock for a continuous year are able to submit proposals that are printed in the annual proxy statement and voted on by shareholders.

Although the Humane Society will not be able to draft such a resolution until next year, Prescott said a representative plans to attend Steak n Shake’s annual meeting this year to advance the discussion.

“We have tried to work with Steak n Shake for many years,” he told IBJ on Thursday. “They have been unresponsive.”

The society is advocating what Prescott called minimal changes—asking the restaurant chain to ensure that some of its eggs are produced by cage-free hens and that some of its pork comes from suppliers who use humane methods of slaughter, for example.

Steak n Shake did not immediately return a phone call from IBJ.

The national Humane Society now owns stock in 38 companies, Prescott said, including Steak n Shake competitors McDonald’s, Jack in the Box and Burger King.

About 8 percent of Burger King’s eggs come from hens not confined in cages, he said—a change the Miami-based burger chain made about a year after the Humane Society became a shareholder. Prescott said the not-for-profit did not file a shareholder resolution to bring about the change.

The society has asked Cincinnati-based grocer Kroger Co. to get all of its private-label eggs from cage-free hens; the resolution will be up for a shareholder vote at the company’s annual meeting this year. Two previous proposals have failed.

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