Legendary investor Carl Icahn is known for his aggressive campaigns to shake up Corporate America. Now, he’s leveraging his reputation to tackle an issue close to his heart: the welfare of pigs.
McDonald’s (MCD) said Sunday that Icahn had nominated two new directors to its board. The move “relates to a narrow issue regarding the company’s pork commitment,” the fast food chain said in a statement.
“I really do feel emotional about these animals and the unnecessary suffering you put them through,” Icahn said in an interview with Bloomberg last week. “A pig has a good brain and it’s a feeling animal.”
Icahn, who served as an inspiration for the larger-than-life character Gordon Gekko in the film “Wall Street,” has previously targeted companies such as Yahoo, Dell (DELL) and Netflix (NFLX). The goal in those cases was to make more money.
His latest campaign involves pushing McDonald’s to require all of its US-based pork suppliers to abandon the practice of keeping pigs confined in crates so small they can’t turn around.
Icahn has stated that he holds only 200 shares in the company, according to McDonald’s. The stake would be worth just over $50,000 based on Friday’s closing price.
McDonald’s first promised in 2012 to phase out the use of the crates, also known as gestation stalls, for pregnant sows.
On Sunday, it 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 a target of 100% by the end of 2024.
The company pushed back on the proposal from Icahn, who it 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.
McDonald’s sources 1% of pork produced in the United States, and does not own any sows itself, it added.
The company also said it is “noteworthy” that Icahn is the majority owner of Viskase, which makes and supplies packaging for the pork industry, but has “not publicly called on Viskase to adopt commitments similar to those of McDonald’s 2012 commitment.”
Icahn told Bloomberg that he got involved again because McDonald’s “never delivered” on its commitment one decade ago.
“We’re not going to fool around with them anymore,” he said.