This week, Burger King announced its plans to eliminate the use of crates among its pork and poultry suppliers. Cynics will say the chain is talking the talk more than walking the walk, as its initial plans are to procure only 2% of its eggs and 10% of its pork from such sources, but Burger King is a very big customer for eggs and pork.

It's true that Burger King can't procure enough of such product at the current time, but the chain is among a growing number of food providers responding to consumer demands. It may be activist groups that are driving the animal welfare bus, and their goals may be drastically different from those of cattlemen, but it would be a mistake to not appreciate that the American consumer is the engine of growth for this movement.

History tells us there will be small premiums paid initially, until the industry adopts enough of the techniques and technologies to meet the demand. And eventually, what were premiums will become discounts as such practices become the de facto industry standard.

Irrespective of the premium and discount arguments, a large percentage of the consuming public seemingly is concerned about animal-welfare issues and wants accountability. Such assurances on animal welfare likely will be packaged right along with other health assurances, including preconditioning, and source-, age- and genetic-verification programs.