In a boost to animal welfare activists looking to get livestock out of cramped cages, Burger King will be the first major U.S. fast-food chain to give all of its chickens and pigs some room to roam.
On Wednesday, the world’s second-biggest burger chain pledged that all of its eggs and pork will come from cage-free chickens and pigs by 2017, hoping to satisfy rising consumer demand for humanely produced fare and increase its sales in the process.
Other companies have made similar but less broad announcements this year, part of an industrywide shift to consider animal welfare when buying food supplies.
“Even if you’re buying a burger, you want to buy it from someone you like and respect,” said food industry analyst Phil Lempert, who writes a daily industry newsletter. “It’s proven that consumers are willing to pay a little bit more for fairness, whether it’s to humans or animals.”
Conventionally raised eggs come from hens confined in “battery cages,” which give them roughly the same space as a sheet of standard notebook paper. Most pork comes from sows confined during their four-month pregnancies in narrow crates.
The hens would still be housed in a barn, but they have room to move and perches and nesting boxes. Sows are also held indoors, but they would not be confined in the cramped crates while they are pregnant.
Egg and pork producers have argued that easing confinement standards for animals raises production costs and makes those who adjust their practices less competitive.
Remnants after fireball explosion in Calif.
RENO, Nev. — Tiny meteorites found in the Sierra foothills of northern California were part of a giant fireball that exploded over the weekend with about one-third the explosive force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in World War II, scientists said Wednesday.
The rocks each weighed about 10 grams, or the weight of two nickels, said John T. Wasson, a longtime professor and expert in meteorites at UCLA’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics.
Experts say the flaming meteor, dating to the early formation of the solar system 4 to 5 billion years ago, was probably about the size of a minivan when it entered the Earth’s atmosphere with a loud boom early Sunday. It was seen from Sacramento, Calif., to Las Vegas and parts of northern Nevada.
An event of that size might happen once a year around the world, said Don Yeomans of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “But most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area, he said.
“Getting to see one is something special,” he said. He added, “most meteors you see in the night’s sky are the size of tiny stones or even grains of sand, and their trail lasts all of a second or two.”
The meteor probably weighed about 154,300 pounds, said Bill Cooke, a specialist in meteors at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. At the time of disintegration, he said, it probably released energy equivalent to a 5-kiloton explosion — the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons.
“You don’t often have kiloton rocks flying over your head,” he said.
Study: Antarctic ice melting from warm water below
WASHINGTON — Antarctica’s massive ice shelves are shrinking because they are being eaten away from below by warm water, a new study finds. That suggests that future sea levels could rise faster than many scientists have been predicting.
The western chunk of Antarctica is losing 23 feet of its floating ice sheet each year. Until now, scientists weren’t exactly sure how it was happening and whether or how man-made global warming might be a factor. The answer, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, is that climate change plays an indirect role — but one that has larger repercussions than if Antarctic ice were merely melting from warmer air.
Hamish Pritchard, a glaciologist at the British Antarctic Survey, said research using an ice-gazing NASA satellite showed that warmer air alone couldn’t explain what was happening to Antarctica. A more detailed examination found a chain of events that explained the shrinking ice shelves.
Twenty ice shelves showed signs that they were melting from warm water below. Changes in wind currents pushed that relatively warmer water closer to and beneath the floating ice shelves. The wind change is likely caused by a combination of factors, including natural weather variation, the ozone hole and man-made greenhouse gases, Pritchard said in a phone interview.