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