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Icahn drops pig welfare proxy fights

Illustration of a pig stepping on the McDonald's logo.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Activist investor Carl Icahn said he will drop his proxy campaign against Kroger following the loss of his pig welfare campaign by McDonald’s shareholders last month.

Why it’s the BFD: While his proxy contests at the fast-food giant and grocery chain haven't had much success, his high-profile efforts raised awareness of the treatment of pigs — particularly the use of gestation crates for pregnant sows — in the food industry’s supply chains.

The latest: Icahn noted that this campaign was different from his typical fights in that both companies are performing financially well.

  • “I congratulate the McDonald’s team on their victory in this proxy engagement and, after much contemplation, given the company’s financial position, I believe the same outcome will result at Kroger,” Icahn said in a letter to both Kroger and McDonald’s shareholders.

Yes, but: “I do not believe, however, that the respective boards of directors of these companies are holding their management teams properly accountable with respect to the treatment of animals or with respect to the welfare of their employees,” he adds.

  • Icahn also knocked on the wage disparity between executives and average workers.
  • “It is unconscionable that it will take average employees at these companies multiple years to make what their CEO earns in one day,” he said in the letter.

State of play: Since launching his animal welfare-focused campaign earlier this year, Icahn said several companies have opened up and updated their policies on these issues.

  • The Cheesecake Factory said it would shift a majority of its supply chain to group-housed pork supply.
  • General Mills plans to end the use of gestation crates in its pork supply chain by the end of next year.
  • Conagra and Denny’s also said they are crafting plans to get to 100% crate-free pork.

Flashback: Icahn put forth two candidates at the fast-food giant earlier this year, but at McDonald’s annual shareholder meeting, all of the company's board nominees were re-elected.

  • He followed a similar playbook at Kroger’s, nominating two to its board and casting the same qualms about its animal welfare policies and wage gap.
  • A Kroger spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. McDonald’s wasn’t immediately available for comment.

​​What’s next: “I will continue to focus on the injustices I mention above and will determine what I believe are the most effective actions to drive change in the near future,” Icahn said.

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