Corporate campaigns affect 9 to 120 years of chicken life per dollar spent


In this ar­ti­cle, I es­ti­mate how many chick­ens will be af­fected by cor­po­rate cage-free[1] and broiler welfare[2] com­mit­ments won by all char­i­ties, in all coun­tries, dur­ing all the years be­tween 2005 and the end of 2018. Ac­cord­ing to my es­ti­mate, for ev­ery dol­lar spent, 9 to 120 years of chicken life will be af­fected. How­ever, the es­ti­mate doesn’t take into ac­count in­di­rect effects which could be more im­por­tant.

The es­ti­mate is sum­ma­rized in the table be­low.[3] In the table, ev­ery­thing is ex­pressed in my sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­vals. Num­bers in paren­the­ses are means. M stands for mil­lion, and B stands for billion. The full es­ti­ma­tion can be seen in the Guessti­mate model. Num­bers in the table may not add up be­cause of the way Guessti­mate works.


In ad­di­tion to di­rect costs on cor­po­rate cam­paigns, the cost es­ti­mate in­cludes the costs of un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions about the liv­ing con­di­tions of chick­ens, rele­vant re­search, and all ad­minis­tra­tive ex­penses as­so­ci­ated with these ac­tivi­ties. It doesn’t in­clude the costs of leg­is­la­tive cam­paigns and fu­ture costs of en­sur­ing com­pli­ance to com­mit­ments that are already made. Con­se­quently, pre­dic­tions of fol­low-through rates as­sume that the spend­ing on en­sur­ing com­pli­ance will not be sub­stan­tial.

There are many ways this cost-effec­tive­ness could be mis­lead­ing. For ex­am­ple:

  • I only es­ti­mate di­rect short term effects. Indi­rect effects on chicken and egg con­sump­tion, wild an­i­mal welfare, pub­lic opinion on farm an­i­mal is­sues, and long-term fu­ture could be more im­por­tant.

  • This is cost-effec­tive­ness of past cam­paigns. Cost-effec­tive­ness in the fu­ture might be differ­ent be­cause com­pa­nies could learn how to deal with an­i­mal ad­vo­cates, it might be done in differ­ent coun­tries, or for differ­ent asks.

  • This is not an es­ti­mate of what an ad­di­tional donated dol­lar would achieve, as I do not dis­cuss room for more fund­ing and there is a high var­i­ance in cost-effec­tive­ness within the spend­ing as­so­ci­ated with cor­po­rate cam­paigns.

In the first ap­pendix, I show that even un­der very pes­simistic as­sump­tions, fight­ing for welfare re­forms has af­fected more than one chicken-year per dol­lar spent

In the sec­ond ap­pendix, I dis­cuss how the in­volve­ment of vol­un­teers slightly skews this cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mate. In short, vol­un­teer time is a cost that is not ac­counted for.

In the third ap­pendix, I re­view pre­vi­ous cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mates of cor­po­rate cam­paigns by Capriati (2018), Bol­lard (2016), Dick­ens (2016), and An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors.

In the fourth ap­pendix, I ex­plain why I chose to es­ti­mate the cost-effec­tive­ness of cam­paigns in all coun­tries, dur­ing all the years be­tween 2005 and the end of 2018, rather than fo­cus­ing on a spe­cific char­ity or year. In short, all efforts are in­ter­re­lated. Efforts in one year can lead to vic­to­ries in later years, and a sin­gle com­mit­ment can be in­fluenced by mul­ti­ple char­i­ties work­ing in mul­ti­ple coun­tries.

This ar­ti­cle is a pro­ject of Re­think Pri­ori­ties. It con­tains a lot of de­tails but I tried to make it easy to skim. The sec­tion I recom­mend read­ing the most is Ways this es­ti­mate could be mis­lead­ing.

The num­ber of chick­ens that should be affected

Ac­cord­ing to un­pub­lished es­ti­mates by Lewis Bol­lard from the Open Philan­thropy Pro­ject (OpenPhil), com­mit­ments that were made be­fore the end of 2018 should af­fect at least:

  • ~243 mil­lion egg-lay­ing hens in the U.S.

  • ~135.6 mil­lion hens in other coun­tries[4]

  • ~512 mil­lion broilers (meat chick­ens) in the U.S.

He ar­rived at these figures by es­ti­mat­ing num­bers of an­i­mals used by many of the com­pa­nies that made com­mit­ments. Es­ti­mates are very ap­prox­i­mate be­cause in most cases the num­ber of an­i­mals used by a com­pany was un­available.[5] Also, many com­mit­ments were not in­cluded in the es­ti­mates, which sug­gest that the to­tal num­ber of an­i­mals who should be af­fected is higher. Bol­lard’s es­ti­mates in­clude:

  • 309 out of over 413 cage-free com­mit­ments in the U.S.

  • 163 out of over 1060 cage-free com­mit­ments in other coun­tries.

  • 51 out of over 107 U.S. broiler commitments

To­tal num­bers of com­mit­ments here are taken from Chicken Watch. Note that some com­mit­ments can be very small (e.g., a sin­gle restau­rant or a ho­tel). Most of the big­ger com­mit­ments are in­cluded.

Based on this in­for­ma­tion, Bol­lard also gave his sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­vals of num­bers of an­i­mals used ev­ery year by com­pa­nies that made com­mit­ments:

  • 210–270 mil­lion hens used by com­pa­nies that made cage-free com­mit­ments in the U.S. The con­fi­dence in­ter­val is rel­a­tively nar­row, partly be­cause USDA has in­de­pen­dently ar­rived at similar es­ti­mates, prob­a­bly us­ing a similar method­ol­ogy. Ac­cord­ing to a 2018 USDA re­port, 230 com­pa­nies that pledged to go cage-free in the U.S. to­gether use about 225 mil­lion hens ev­ery year, which is nearly 70% of the U.S. flock

  • 100–300 mil­lion hens used by com­pa­nies that made cage-free com­mit­ments in other coun­tries.

  • 200–800 mil­lion broilers used by com­pa­nies that made broiler com­mit­ments in the U.S.

Com­pli­ca­tions with the es­ti­mate of the num­ber of broilers

In some cases, the num­ber of broilers af­fected by com­mit­ments was calcu­lated by di­vid­ing the weight of chicken meat used by com­pa­nies by the av­er­age meat weight per chicken (~2 kg). How­ever, this might un­der­es­ti­mate the num­ber of chick­ens af­fected if a com­mit­ted com­pany uses only a part of a chicken (e.g., only wings).[6] In those cases, we might want to di­vide the weight of chicken meat used by the restau­rant by the av­er­age weight of chicken wings, rather than the weight of all ed­ible chicken parts. This would re­sult in a higher es­ti­mate of broilers af­fected. On the other hand, this might cause an over­lap be­tween differ­ent com­mit­ments. Same higher welfare broilers might be used to sup­ply two com­pa­nies that use differ­ent body parts. Nev­er­the­less, be­cause of this con­sid­er­a­tion, I in­crease the up­per bound of U.S. broilers that should be af­fected by broiler com­mit­ments ev­ery year from 800 mil­lion to 1.1 billion. That means that the 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val is 200 mil­lion to 1.1 billion broilers.

Broiler com­mit­ments in other countries

In this sec­tion, I es­ti­mate that 90–240 mil­lion broilers should be af­fected by com­mit­ments out­side of the U.S.

Ac­cord­ing to Chicken Watch, there were 17 broiler com­mit­ments in Europe made be­fore the end of 2018. Ten of these com­mit­ments are by restau­rants with about 1,000 lo­ca­tions com­bined,[7] most of which are in the U.K. The restau­rant with the most lo­ca­tions (360 to 410) is Pret A Manger which seems some­what similar to Pan­era Bread. Pan­era Bread has 2,129 lo­ca­tions and (ac­cord­ing to CIWF) uses about 17 mil­lion chick­ens an­nu­ally. It can be ex­trap­o­lated that Pret A Manger com­mit­ment cov­ers about 3 mil­lion broilers. Other big­ger restau­rant com­mit­ments are from Ital­ian restau­rants. Over­all, I think that 5 to 17 mil­lion broilers are af­fected by these restau­rants’ com­mit­ments.

Other non-U.S. and non-Canada broiler com­mit­ments are:

  • Knorr: Com­pas­sion in World Farm­ing (CIWF) claims that the com­mit­ment will benefit the lives of more than 102 mil­lion meat chick­ens (pre­sum­ably ev­ery year). CIWF ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor is cited by the pro­ducer say­ing that Knorr’s North Amer­ica’s com­mit­ment im­pacts 50 mil­lion birds ev­ery year. It fol­lows that the com­mit­ment should im­pact about 52 mil­lion broilers out­side of North Amer­ica.

  • Nes­tle: ac­cord­ing to farm­in­, “Nestlé′s Euro­pean op­er­a­tions use around 10,000 tonnes of chicken prod­ucts each year”. As­sum­ing that the av­er­age broiler meat weight is 2 kg, the com­mit­ment should af­fect around 5 mil­lion broilers ev­ery year.

  • Elior Group: this is a food­ser­vice com­pany. Another food­ser­vice com­pany, Com­pass Group USA, claims to serve over “10 mil­lion meals a day” and also claims that their broiler com­mit­ment will “re­sult in im­prov­ing the lives of ap­prox­i­mately 60 mil­lion broiler chick­ens per year.” Elior Group claims to serve 5.5 mil­lion cus­tomers ev­ery day. From an ex­trap­o­la­tion, it would fol­low that around 33 mil­lion broilers per year are used by Elior group. How­ever, U.S. con­sumes much more chicken per cap­ita than France and other EU coun­tries where Ellior op­er­ates,[8] which makes me guess that most likely Elior uses fewer broilers. My sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val is 10–42 mil­lion.

  • Marks & Spencer: their com­mit­ment claims that they “source in the re­gion of 50,000 tonnes of fresh poul­try an­nu­ally from over 200 farms in the UK.” As­sum­ing that the av­er­age broiler meat weight is 2 kg, that is 25 mil­lion broilers.[9]

  • Danone: look­ing through their most pop­u­lar brands, I don’t see any prod­ucts with chicken. Con­se­quently, I think that the com­mit­ment might cover rel­a­tively few broilers.

  • Dr. Oetker: this is a big man­u­fac­turer (~$12.3 billion yearly rev­enue) that pro­duces a va­ri­ety of prod­ucts, some of which con­tain chicken. Prob­a­bly cov­ers tens of mil­lions of broilers an­nu­ally but I don’t see a way to es­ti­mate how many.

The es­ti­mates I men­tioned add up to 95–141 mil­lion. How­ever, this doesn’t in­clude Dr. Oetker and Danone com­mit­ments, and there is ad­di­tional un­cer­tainty about the ex­act num­ber of chick­ens cov­ered by some other com­mit­ments. Also, I did not es­ti­mate the size of com­mit­ments in Canada.

With all this in­for­ma­tion in mind, my sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val for the num­ber of broilers used by com­pa­nies that made broiler com­mit­ments in coun­tries other than the U.S. is 90–240 mil­lion. This takes into ac­count the com­pli­ca­tions that are ex­plained in the pre­vi­ous sec­tion. Note that I skipped the 2 Sisters Food Group com­mit­ment be­cause it was made by a pro­ducer. I dis­cuss it in the Fol­low-through rate sec­tion.

Hens that would have been cage free with­out intervention

I es­ti­mated how many hens are used to pro­duce eggs that com­pa­nies that made com­mit­ments use. How­ever, some of those com­pa­nies (es­pe­cially gro­cers) used some cage-free eggs be­fore any cam­paigns hap­pened. In this sec­tion, I es­ti­mate that 79–180 mil­lion hens that are cov­ered by com­mit­ments would have been cage-free even if no cage-free cam­paigns or un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions about hen con­di­tions hap­pened since 2005. This re­duces the num­ber of hens that should be af­fected by com­mit­ments to 240–390 mil­lion.


Work by HSUS and other an­i­mal ad­vo­cates has led to Cal­ifor­nia and Wash­ing­ton state ban­ning the sale and pro­duc­tion of eggs from caged hens. Fur­ther­more, Mas­sachusetts passed a law that bans bat­tery cages and es­tab­lishes space re­quire­ments that make cage-free sys­tems more ap­peal­ing to pro­duc­ers. Fi­nally, Ore­gon has very re­cently passed a bill ban­ning the sale and pro­duc­tion eggs from caged hens, al­though it only ap­plies to egg pro­duc­ers with more than 3,000 hens. Even though cor­po­rate cam­paigns might have made pass­ing these laws eas­ier, I will ex­clude hens that are used to lay eggs that are con­sumed in these states from the es­ti­ma­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to King (2019), in 2018, Cal­ifor­nia’s pop­u­la­tion con­sumed 11.4 billion eggs — equiv­a­lent to the pro­duc­tion of 39 mil­lion lay­ers, which is about 12% of the U.S. com­mer­cial lay­ing hen flock. Wash­ing­ton state, Mas­sachusetts and Ore­gon have a com­bined pop­u­la­tion of about 18.6 mil­lion, which is about 5.7% of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion. If we as­sume that these states con­sume a similar num­ber of eggs per cap­ita as the rest of the U.S., we get that around 17.7% of U.S. eggs would be cage-free di­rectly due to leg­is­la­tion.[10] It could be a lit­tle less if many egg pro­duc­ers in Ore­gon will keep less than 3,000 hens, as the law doesn’t ap­ply to them.

Also, note that there were some cage-free eggs be­fore the laws de­scribed above were passed and cor­po­rate cam­paigns be­gan. This re­port con­tains USDA data of per­centages of U.S. hens that were cage-free in differ­ent years:


It seems that there was a slight up­wards trend be­fore most of the cage-free cam­paigns started, al­though it could still have been in­fluenced by un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions and few early cam­paigns. Note that some of these eggs were sold in Cal­ifor­nia, Wash­ing­ton state, Mas­sachusetts and Ore­gon, and these eggs should not be dou­ble-counted. Also, these are the per­centages of eggs pro­duced in the U.S. rather than con­sumed, but U.S. egg im­ports and ex­ports seem to be rel­a­tively minor, so we can as­sume that a similar per­centage of con­sumed eggs were cage-free each year.

Based on all this in­for­ma­tion, I think that 18–26% of eggs in the U.S. would be cage-free with­out cor­po­rate cam­paigns. That means out of 210–270 mil­lion hens used by com­pa­nies in the U.S. that made cage-free com­mit­ments, 160–210 mil­lion hens would be caged if cor­po­rate cam­paigns never hap­pened.

Other countries

In the Bol­lard’s es­ti­mates, out of es­ti­mated 135.6 mil­lion hens that are cov­ered by non-U.S. com­mit­ments, 59% are cov­ered by global com­mit­ments. Other com­mit­ments are re­gion spe­cific, with most an­i­mals af­fected by com­mit­ments spe­cific to France (11.4%), UK (5.8%), Brazil (5.5%), all Europe (4.1%), Spain (3.3%), Italy (2.8%), Mex­ico (2%), Ger­many (1.8%), Poland (1.1%), and Den­mark (1.1%). Note that Bol­lard’s es­ti­mates don’t con­tain all cage-free com­mit­ments, and com­mit­ments from some re­gions could have been sys­tem­at­i­cally ex­cluded. Also, it only pro­vides ap­prox­i­mate es­ti­ma­tions of hens af­fected. Nev­er­the­less, I be­lieve this is some­what in­dica­tive of which coun­tries will be af­fected by com­mit­ments the most.

Here are the per­centages of cage-free eggs in 2013 and 2017 in these coun­tries:


Sources for the val­ues in the table: Wind­horst (2017) (for 2013 val­ues), Euro­pean Com­mis­sion (2019) (for 2017 value for the EU), Cor­bett (2018) (for all other 2017 val­ues). In some cases, these per­centages con­flict with the data that Char­ity En­trepreneur­ship has col­lected, though I’m not sure why. How­ever, we don’t need pre­cise val­ues for this es­ti­ma­tion.

I think that num­bers for 2013 are rele­vant be­cause most of the com­mit­ments were se­cured be­fore 2013, so it’s un­likely that those per­centages were sig­nifi­cantly in­fluenced by cor­po­rate cam­paigns.

Note that these num­bers only sug­gest what per­centage of eggs used by com­mit­ted com­pa­nies would have been cage-free. For ex­am­ple, if France is 31% cage-free, that doesn’t mean that French com­pa­nies that made pledges would have been 31% cage-free if they didn’t make com­mit­ments. For ex­am­ple, it could be that most of the com­mit­ments are from gro­cers that already used a higher per­centage of cage-free eggs than the na­tional av­er­age. Also, coun­tries could have im­ported or ex­ported some por­tion of used eggs.

Four out of the six biggest global cage-free com­mit­ments are made by Ger­man re­tailers, that op­er­ate mostly in Europe, and have about half of their stores in Ger­many.[11] Out of ~67 mil­lion hens that are cov­ered by global com­mit­ments that are in­cluded in the Lewis Bol­lard spread­sheet, these four re­tailers cover ~40 mil­lion hens. This sig­nifi­cantly re­duces the num­ber of hens that should benefit from global cage-free com­mit­ments be­cause Ger­many is already over 90% cage-free and is com­mit­ted to go fully cage-free by 2025.

I haven’t an­a­lyzed other big global com­mit­ments (Pep­siCo, Unilever, Sodexo, Grupo Bimbo, Land O’ Lakes, Kel­logg’s Com­pany, Com­pass Group, Hormel Foods, Camp­bell Soup, JM Smucker Com­pany, Gen­eral Mills, Elior). At least some of these com­pa­nies im­pact Asia and Africa, where the per­centage of cage-free eggs is prob­a­bly very low.

With all this in­for­ma­tion in mind, my sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val is that out of 100–300 mil­lion hens used by com­pa­nies that made cage-free com­mit­ments in coun­tries other than U.S., 20%–50% would have been cage-free with­out cor­po­rate cam­paigns. That means that non-U.S. cor­po­rate cage-free com­mit­ments should af­fect 63–210 mil­lion hens ev­ery year that would have been caged with­out the cam­paigns, as­sum­ing that all com­pa­nies fol­low-through.

To­tal chick­ens affected

The table be­low sum­marises the es­ti­ma­tions of an­i­mals af­fected by com­mit­ments ev­ery year:


Note that this ex­cludes broilers who die be­fore slaugh­ter. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Chicken Coun­cil, around 5% or U.S. broilers die be­fore slaugh­ter. Pre-slaugh­ter mor­tal­ity in other coun­tries might be differ­ent. Fur­ther­more, com­mit­ments should af­fect an ad­di­tional 2 to 8 mil­lion broiler breed­ers who are al­ive dur­ing any given month.[12][13]

Fol­low-through rate

As I re­viewed in Šimčikas (2019), there are many rea­sons to be­lieve that some com­pa­nies will fail to fol­low through with their com­mit­ments. In this sec­tion, I ex­plain why I pre­dict that the fol­low-through rate will be 48%–84% for cage-free com­mit­ments and 1%–94% for broiler welfare com­mit­ments.

Ap­proaches in other estimates

First, I overview the val­ues used in other es­ti­mates:

  • Capriati (2018) es­ti­mates that “there is a 60% prob­a­bil­ity that com­pa­nies will fol­low through with cage-free com­mit­ments, [and] a 30% prob­a­bil­ity they will fol­low through with broiler com­mit­ments.”

  • Sarek (2019) es­ti­mates that 39%–50% of com­pa­nies will fol­low through their com­mit­ments. It warns that “it is not an es­ti­mate about the effec­tive­ness of past cor­po­rate cam­paigns on egg-lay­ing hens and broilers is­sues!” How­ever, many pieces of ev­i­dence it con­sid­ers are about cage-free com­mit­ments, and I used them to in­form my sub­jec­tive con­fi­dence in­ter­vals.

  • In their Guessti­mate mod­els, An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors (ACE) has a vari­able “Prob­a­bil­ity That Com­pa­nies Will Honor Welfare Com­mit­ments.” Its value is a 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val from 30% to 86% (the mean is 53%).

One prob­lem with the ap­proaches in these es­ti­mates is that the fol­low-through rate largely de­pends on how much effort and money will be spent on en­sur­ing com­pli­ance. The right ap­proach for an­i­mal ac­tivists could be to do ev­ery­thing we can to make sure that com­pa­nies keep their promises.[14] There­fore, it could be that most of the costs as­so­ci­ated with se­cured com­mit­ments will be spent in the fu­ture. How­ever, it would be difficult to take these fu­ture costs into ac­count be­cause no­body knows what they will be. Con­se­quently, similarly to es­ti­mates above, I de­cided to not take them into ac­count. As a re­sult, my es­ti­mates in this sec­tion as­sume that an­i­mal ad­vo­cates won’t take any costly ac­tions to en­sure com­pli­ance, even though they prob­a­bly will. This as­sump­tion makes this es­ti­mate less use­ful be­cause it es­ti­mates how cost-effec­tive past cor­po­rate cam­paigns were in a po­ten­tial fu­ture that will prob­a­bly not ex­ist.

Also, note that some com­mit­ments can be par­tially im­ple­mented. This is es­pe­cially likely for some global com­mit­ments, where some coun­try branches don’t an­nounce or even know about global com­mit­ments. To take chick­ens that will be af­fected by par­tially im­ple­mented com­mit­ments into ac­count, in­stead of es­ti­mat­ing the prob­a­bil­ity that com­pa­nies will fol­low through, I es­ti­mate what per­centage of chick­ens that are cov­ered by com­mit­ments will ac­tu­ally be af­fected in the way that was promised. This is also done partly to avoid some math­e­mat­i­cal com­plex­ity and am­bi­guity that I ex­plain here.

Cage-free ask

The U.S.

The U.S. cage-free flock has already in­creased from just un­der 17 mil­lion (5.7% of all U.S. lay­ers) at the be­gin­ning of 2016 to 66.7 mil­lion (19.8%) hens in the June of 2019.[15] For all cage-free pledges to be im­ple­mented, this num­ber will have to rise to at least 210–270 mil­lion (62%–80%) by 2026. King (2019) claims that the U.S. cage-free pro­duc­tion will need to grow three times faster to meet this goal.

In a sur­vey of thirty-one egg pro­duc­ers, on av­er­age it was pre­dicted that 43% of eggs would be cage-free in 2025, but an­swers ranged from 20% to 100% (see O’Keefe (2019)).[16] Many other rele­vant pieces of ev­i­dence are re­viewed in Sarek (2019) and Šimčikas (2019). With all this in mind, my sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val for the fol­low-through rate of cage-free com­mit­ments in the U.S. is 33%–85%.

Other countries

As re­viewed in the Hens that would have been cage free with­out in­ter­ven­tion sec­tion, most of the hens cov­ered by cage-free com­mit­ments in other coun­tries seem to be in Europe. Look­ing at the 2018 Euro­pean Eg­gTrack re­port, it ap­pears that most (but not all) Euro­pean com­pa­nies are on track to meet their com­mit­ments. There are also 76 com­mit­ments with due dates in the past, and only two of them do not have re­ported progress: Ben­net and Duss­man. It seems that all the other com­mit­ments in­cluded in the re­port were fol­lowed-through.

Based on my limited knowl­edge about the situ­a­tion in Asia, South Amer­ica, and Africa, the fol­low-through rate in these re­gions will prob­a­bly be lower than in Europe.

Over­all, I ex­pect the fol­low-through rate of cage-free com­mit­ments out­side of the U.S. to be 63%–90%.


In the Guessti­mate model, I weight the pre­dicted fol­low-through rates of cage-free com­mit­ments in the U.S. and Europe by how many hens they should af­fect, and es­ti­mate that the com­bined fol­low-through rate for all cage-free com­mit­ments is 48%–84%.

Broiler ask

It’s much less clear what will be the fol­low-through rate of broiler com­mit­ments. All the com­mit­ments have been won in the past few years, and to my knowl­edge, there hasn’t yet been any track­ing of whether com­pa­nies are on track to com­ply with their com­mit­ments.[17]

One risk is that broiler pro­duc­ers will fail to scale up the pro­duc­tion of higher welfare broilers, and there will be no way for com­pa­nies to com­ply at the dead­line. For­tu­nately, some pro­duc­ers have com­mit­ted to meet­ing the de­mand for higher welfare broilers. Graber and Kel­ler (2018) lists 17 U.S. poul­try pro­duc­ers and pro­ces­sors that made such com­mit­ments. One of them is Per­due. Ac­cord­ing to Thorn­ton (2016), Per­due is the fourth biggest broiler pro­ducer in the U.S. Per­due’s com­mit­ment seems strong. The list also in­cludes Wayne Farms, the sixth biggest broiler pro­ducer in the U.S. In Europe, there is a similar com­mit­ment by a pro­ducer 2 Sisters Food Group. Cle­ments (2016) claims 2 Sisters Food Group slaugh­ters 317 mil­lion birds an­nu­ally, which sug­gests that it is ca­pa­ble of sup­ply­ing to the de­mand that other Euro­pean com­mit­ments cre­ated so far.

De­spite this, based on con­ver­sa­tions with some an­i­mal ad­vo­cates, it seems likely that if an­i­mal ad­vo­cates did no fur­ther ac­tions to en­sure com­pli­ance, only the most so­cially re­spon­si­ble com­pa­nies would fol­low through be­cause higher welfare broilers will prob­a­bly be more ex­pen­sive. Based on this, I cre­ated a cus­tom prob­a­bil­ity dis­tri­bu­tion, with a mean value of 24%:


Note that I only have a limited un­der­stand­ing of the situ­a­tion with broiler com­mit­ments, and I am very much open to chang­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion above if given feed­back or rele­vant ev­i­dence. I ex­pect the ac­tual fol­low-through rate to be higher than this graph in­di­cates be­cause I ex­pect an­i­mal ad­vo­cates to do more work on en­sur­ing com­pli­ance. How­ever, this es­ti­mate as­sumes that they won’t.

Mean Years of Impact

As­sum­ing com­pa­nies fol­low through their promises, how long should we ex­pect those promises to have an effect? I think that this is one of the pri­mary sources of un­cer­tainty in this es­ti­mate. In this sec­tion, I ex­plain why I chose to use a sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val of 4 to 36 years for this value. The rea­son­ing in this sec­tion does lit­tle to re­duce the un­cer­tainty about what this value should be, so im­pa­tient read­ers might want to skip it.

Ap­proaches in other estimates

First, I overview how other similar es­ti­mates dealt with this un­cer­tainty:

  • Bol­lard (2016) as­sumes that cage-free com­mit­ments ac­cel­er­ate changes by five years. He also adds: “In my view, the as­sump­tion that these cam­paigns only ac­cel­er­ated pledges by five years is very con­ser­va­tive. It seems equally likely that these com­pa­nies would never have dropped bat­tery cages, or would have merely tran­si­tioned to “en­riched” cages. For in­stance, as re­cently as March 2015, a coal­i­tion backed by McDon­ald’s, Gen­eral Mills, and other ma­jor food com­pa­nies is­sued a re­port which largely en­dorsed “en­riched” cages as an al­ter­na­tive to cage-free sys­tems.”

  • ACE uses a sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val of 1.6 to 14 years (mean 5.6 years) for all cor­po­rate pledges. They ex­plain that “This is the num­ber of years for which we ex­pect these com­mit­ments to have an effect for. It is pri­mar­ily based on coun­ter­fac­tual rea­son­ing—how long be­fore an­other fac­tor, such as a leg­is­la­tive change or a shift in con­sumer de­mand, leads to a similar re­sult.”

  • Other es­ti­mates rely on the rea­son­ing in the sources above, or avoid the is­sue by es­ti­mat­ing how many an­i­mals are af­fected ev­ery year.[18]

Note that con­trary to the es­ti­mate above, my es­ti­mate in­cludes the costs for un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions. It fol­lows that the es­ti­mates above are deal­ing with a differ­ent coun­ter­fac­tual. That is, con­trary to my es­ti­mate, they as­sume that un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions still hap­pened, which makes a “shift in con­sumer de­mand” a much more likely sce­nario.

My sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence interval

Usu­ally, com­mit­ments start hav­ing an im­pact be­fore the dead­line be­cause com­pa­nies grad­u­ally in­crease the per­centage of their prod­ucts that are higher welfare. If a com­pany has 10 years to meet the dead­line, and dur­ing those 10 years, 50% of the prod­ucts they use are higher welfare (as op­posed to 0% be­fore the com­mit­ment was made), then we could say that there were 5 years of im­pact be­fore the dead­line. This as­sumes that there was no other fac­tor (like a leg­is­la­tive change) that would have caused the com­pany to start a shift to higher welfare prod­ucts in that time.[19]

There are a lot of ways that changes stop be­ing in effect af­ter be­ing im­ple­mented:

  • Leg­is­la­tion that makes all the com­pa­nies use cage-free eggs or higher welfare broilers goes into force. Ex­am­ples of such leg­is­la­tion in­clude the ban of the sale of eggs from caged hens in Cal­ifor­nia by 2022 and the ban on caging hens in Ger­many that will go into force in 2025. Note that com­mit­ments may make such leg­is­la­tion eas­ier to pass be­cause com­mit­ted com­pa­nies no longer have fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives to op­pose them. How­ever, for sim­plic­ity, in this es­ti­ma­tion, we ig­nore these effects and con­sider the pe­riod of im­pact to be over once a leg­is­la­tion comes into force.

  • Dis­ap­pear­ance of com­pa­nies that made pledges. Com­pa­nies that made pledges can go bankrupt, split, merge, be ac­quired by other com­pa­nies that made no com­mit­ments, or de­crease in size and be re­placed by other com­pa­nies that made no pledges.

  • New man­age­ment ig­nores com­mit­ments by the pre­vi­ous man­age­ment or doesn’t even know about them.

  • Back­slide due to eco­nomic in­cen­tives. If not all the egg pro­duc­ers in a re­gion go cage-free and some pro­duc­tion of caged eggs re­mains, there is a risk that some com­pa­nies would switch back to caged eggs to save on costs, pos­si­bly even with­out any­one even notic­ing, es­pe­cially in the case of liquid eggs which are more difficult to mon­i­tor. This back­slide may be stopped by an­i­mal ac­tivists, but that would re­quire ad­di­tional re­sources (al­though prob­a­bly less than it took to make com­pa­nies im­ple­ment the change in the first place). I was told that such en­force­ment cam­paigns were already nec­es­sary on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions to hold up com­pa­nies to their fur-free com­mit­ments. Note that eco­nomic in­cen­tives to switch back to lower welfare prod­ucts are much less com­pel­ling once you con­sider the cost of tran­si­tion. For ex­am­ple, to go cage-free, it would cost U.S. pro­duc­ers around $7 billion.[20] Costs of go­ing back to cage sys­tems could be com­pa­rable. Fur­ther­more, there would be a high rep­u­ta­tional cost to the com­pany if such a back­slide was no­ticed. Hence, I don’t think that back­slides are likely to hap­pen any time soon.

  • Com­pa­nies switch­ing to higher welfare prod­ucts due to a change in con­sumer de­mand. Even with­out un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions and cor­po­rate cam­paigns, con­sumers could have even­tu­ally started want­ing to buy higher-welfare (and more ex­pen­sive) an­i­mal prod­ucts. I think that most likely this would not have hap­pened in the rele­vant time pe­riod.

  • Com­mit­ments could grad­u­ally be­come less im­por­tant if a lesser num­ber of eggs and chicken are con­sumed in the fu­ture. This can hap­pen in mul­ti­ple ways:

    • Clean meat or plant-based sub­sti­tutes be­com­ing more pop­u­lar which makes chicken and eggs less pop­u­lar. See An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors (2017b) for timelines of when cul­tured an­i­mal prod­ucts will be cost-com­pet­i­tive. It seems that one rele­vant sce­nario for the near fu­ture is eggs be­ing re­placed by man­u­fac­tur­ers, as al­ter­na­tives (which are not nec­es­sar­ily cul­tured) get cheaper and bet­ter. Ac­cord­ing to Wat­son (2016), this already hap­pened when egg prices spiked due to the avian flu, but many pro­duc­ers went back to us­ing eggs af­ter egg prices re­turned to nor­mal. A lot of the chicken that is cur­rently con­sumed is whole pieces of mus­cle tis­sue (rather than pro­cessed meat like chicken nuggets) which may be difficult to cul­ture at a com­pet­i­tive price.

    • Peo­ple con­sume less chicken and eggs for eth­i­cal, health, en­vi­ron­men­tal, or taste rea­sons. Note that peo­ple could also in­crease the con­sump­tion of chicken for some of the same rea­sons (e.g., sub­sti­tut­ing beef for chicken to help the en­vi­ron­ment, or to be more healthy).

    • De­crease in hu­man pop­u­la­tion. Given cur­rent trends, the con­tinu­a­tion of the in­crease in hu­man pop­u­la­tion in the medium term seems much more likely.

The pe­riod of im­pact stops when­ever one of these events hap­pen. How­ever, these events can also hap­pen grad­u­ally. For ex­am­ple, if the num­ber of chick­ens used by a com­pany de­creases by a half for rea­sons un­re­lated to the cam­paign, it still af­fects the other half. In this es­ti­ma­tion, if at a given year a com­mit­ment is hav­ing half of the im­pact it has now, I would take it into ac­count by in­creas­ing the mean years of im­pact by 0.5 years. It’s not in­tu­itive, but I think differ­ent mod­els would add com­plex­ity but would do lit­tle to de­crease the un­cer­tainty.

Similarly, the mean years of im­pact should be big­ger if the pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion of eggs and chicken is in­creas­ing. Pro­jec­tions of poul­try and egg pro­duc­tion are re­viewed in the 2018 is­sue of Poul­try Trends. EU egg pro­duc­tion is pro­jected to in­crease by 6.2% be­tween 2016 and 2026. U.S. egg con­sump­tion is pro­jected to rise by 14.5% be­tween 2017 and 2027. In de­vel­oped coun­tries, where all broiler com­mit­ments were won, poul­try pro­duc­tion is ex­pected to in­crease by 12% by 2027. U.S. poul­try pro­duc­tion is ex­pected to be about 13% higher in 2027 than it was in 2017. Over­all, these trends sig­nifi­cantly in­crease how many chick­ens we should ex­pect to be af­fected, and that is taken into ac­count in this es­ti­ma­tion by slightly in­creas­ing the value of mean years of im­pact.

Over­all, it’s difficult to make progress on the ques­tion of how many years com­mit­ments will have an im­pact, and a wide con­fi­dence in­ter­val has to be used as a re­sult. My sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val which I use in the Guessti­mate model is 4 to 36 years (the mean is 15 years). Note that I use a log­nor­mal dis­tri­bu­tion be­cause I think that a lesser num­ber of years is more likely.


In this sec­tion, I es­ti­mate that the to­tal spend­ing re­lated to cor­po­rate an­i­mal welfare cam­paigns be­tween 2005 and 2018 is 54–120 mil­lion U.S. dol­lars, of which $16–$42 mil­lion is at­tributable broiler cam­paigns, and $36–$84 mil­lion to cage-free cam­paigns. I try to in­clude not only di­rect costs of cam­paigns, but also spend­ing on un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions of broiler and hen liv­ing con­di­tions in fac­tory farms, past efforts to en­sure com­pli­ance to com­mit­ments, rele­vant re­search, and all op­er­a­tional, office rental, travel, ad­minis­tra­tive, train­ing, hiring, and man­age­rial costs that are as­so­ci­ated with these ac­tivi­ties. You can see the full de­tails es­ti­ma­tion in the Guessti­mate model.

First, I make ed­u­cated guesses about the spend­ing of all the biggest an­i­mal char­i­ties that work on cor­po­rate cam­paigns:

  • The Hu­mane League (THL): $7.4–$11 mil­lion. This is based on in­for­ma­tion pro­vided in An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors Re­views. Even though the char­ity pro­vides a break­down of their bud­get, there is un­cer­tainty about what per­centage of spend­ing on ac­tivi­ties like grass­roots ac­tivism, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, cre­at­ing a U.K. branch, and re­search should be re­garded as costs that are rele­vant for cor­po­rate cam­paigns.

  • Mercy For An­i­mals: $6.5–$12 mil­lion. Us­ing the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided on their web­site, I es­ti­mated that be­tween 2012 and 2017, the char­ity spent around $3.7 mil­lion on cor­po­rate out­reach and about $6 mil­lion on un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions. The es­ti­ma­tion ex­cludes fundrais­ing costs and as­sumes that ad­minis­tra­tion and de­vel­op­ment costs were pro­por­tional to the spend­ing on a pro­gram each year. From their in­ves­ti­ga­tions page, it seems that only a frac­tion of in­ves­ti­ga­tions is about egg-lay­ing hens or broilers. It seems that most of the cor­po­rate out­reach was rele­vant to cage-free and broiler cam­paigns. I had to guess how much the char­ity spent in 2018 and be­fore 2012.

  • World An­i­mal Pro­tec­tion: $12–$39 mil­lion. The es­ti­mate is based on their global re­views. Ac­cord­ing to them, be­tween 2012 and 2017, the char­ity spent $65.3 mil­lion on helping an­i­mals in farm­ing.[21] How­ever, the de­scrip­tions in the re­views in­di­cate that only a frac­tion of it was spent on cage-free and broiler cam­paigns. It’s un­clear how big this frac­tion, which is a ma­jor source of un­cer­tainty. Note that I in­clude the costs of some ac­tivi­ties that are only in­di­rectly con­nected to cor­po­rate cam­paigns. For ex­am­ple, en­courag­ing peo­ple to take a pledge to buy only cage-free eggs, work­ing on The Busi­ness Bench­mark on Farm An­i­mal Welfare. Some of the or­ga­ni­za­tional sup­port costs are also in­cluded. I had to guess how much the char­ity spent in 2018 and be­fore 2012. The spend­ing on fac­tory farm­ing in 2012 was the high­est in all years which made me think that spend­ing on ac­tivi­ties re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns be­tween 2005 and 2011 could have been sig­nifi­cant ($100,000 to $1 mil­lion an­nu­ally).

  • Hu­mane So­ciety Of The United States(HSUS): $7.4–$14 mil­lion. Ac­cord­ing to ACE re­views, their Farm An­i­mal Pro­tec­tion Cam­paign’s (FAPC’s) di­rect spend­ing on cor­po­rate out­reach was ap­prox­i­mately $1.5 mil­lion in 2018, $1.1 mil­lion in 2016, and $0.35 mil­lion in 2014.[22] How­ever, there may also be high in­di­rect costs, which could even dou­ble the rele­vant spend­ing.[23] Ac­cord­ing to a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion with Lewis Bol­lard, who pre­vi­ously worked at HSUS, there was lit­tle spend­ing re­lated to cor­po­rate cage-free and broiler welfare cam­paigns un­til 2014. Con­se­quently, I as­sumed that be­tween 2005 and 2013, the rele­vant HSUS spend­ing was smaller ($50,000 to $500,000 per year). Note that I ex­clude HSUS spend­ing on leg­is­la­tive work that helps an­i­mal welfare re­forms, which I dis­cuss later in this ar­ti­cle.

  • Com­pas­sion in World Farm­ing (CIWF): $6.2-$17 mil­lion. I found very lit­tle fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion about CIWF’s spend­ing. Us­ing non-pub­lic in­for­ma­tion, I es­ti­mated that they spent $1.3 mil­lion to $8 mil­lion on ac­tivi­ties re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns in 2018. I haven’t found any more in­for­ma­tion about CIWF as a whole, but I did find more in­for­ma­tion about CIWF USA. From ACE’s re­view of CIWF USA, it seems that all the spend­ing in 2017 ($680,000) was re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns. From an older ACE’s re­view, it seems that all CIWF USA’s spend­ing was re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns in 2013 as well. From IRS Forms 990, which can be found on Char­ity Nav­i­ga­tor, it can be seen that CIWF USA’s to­tal ex­penses be­tween 2013 and 2016 were $1.16 mil­lion in to­tal.[24] How­ever, it’s un­clear how much other CIWF branches spent.

  • An­i­mal Equal­ity: $2.8–$4.4 mil­lion Ac­cord­ing to ACE re­views, An­i­mal Equal­ity’s spend­ing on cor­po­rate cam­paigns was about $1.24 mil­lion in 2018, $890,000 in 2017, less than $132,000 in 2016, and $10,531 in 2013. Also, from ACE re­views, it seems that be­tween 2013 and 2018, An­i­mal Equal­ity spent around $3.3 mil­lion on un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions.[25] Less than a third of their posted videos from un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions are about chick­ens. It seems that spend­ing on cor­po­rate out­reach and in­ves­ti­ga­tions be­fore 2013 was minor.[26] It also seems that other pro­grams of An­i­mal Equal­ity are not very re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns, but I am un­sure. Their to­tal cu­mu­la­tive bud­get since 2013 seems to be around 11 mil­lion and un­der $300,000 per year in pre­vi­ous years.

  • L214: $1.7–$5.6 mil­lion Ac­cord­ing to an ACE re­view, in 2017 L214 spent around $330,000, on un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions and about $850,000 on cor­po­rate out­reach, fo­cus­ing on cage-free re­forms. Ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­ment they pro­vided to ACE, in 2016 L214 spent about $482,000 on cam­paigns, and $904,000 on in­ves­ti­ga­tions, not in­clud­ing some as­so­ci­ated ex­penses that don’t be­long to any pro­gram. It also seems that at least some of their cam­paigns were re­lated to ve­gan ad­vo­cacy rather than welfare re­forms.

  • Albert Sch­weitzer Foun­da­tion (ASF): $0.8–$1.7 mil­lion Ac­cord­ing to ACE re­views, ASF’s spend­ing on cor­po­rate out­reach was about $917,000 in 2018, $270,000 in 2016, and $168,194 in 2014. How­ever, table A 3.1 in ASF’s trans­parency re­port shows that a sig­nifi­cant por­tion of that spend­ing was on ex­pand­ing plant-based offer­ings and welfare in the aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, ASF spend­ing on welfare cam­paigns of land an­i­mals was $170,000 in 2016 and $279,000 in 2017. It’s un­clear whether this in­cludes as­so­ci­ated ad­minis­tra­tive costs, whether other AFS’s ac­tivi­ties were re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns, how much AFS spent in 2018, and whether the char­ity did ac­tivi­ties re­lated to broiler and chicken welfare cam­paigns be­fore 2016.

Us­ing this in­for­ma­tion, in the Guessti­mate model I put my sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­vals of how much each or­ga­ni­za­tion spent on ac­tivi­ties re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns for each year be­tween 2005 and 2018. It re­quired some guess­work, es­pe­cially for years be­fore 2012.

A sig­nifi­cant part of the fund­ing for cor­po­rate cam­paigns by these and other or­ga­ni­za­tions comes from the Open Philan­thropy Pro­ject (OpenPhil). I cat­e­go­rized all Farm An­i­mal Welfare grants given by OpenPhil here. Ac­cord­ing to my es­ti­mate, OpenPhil gave grants to­tal­ing:

  • $25.9 mil­lion that are re­lated to farm an­i­mal welfare, but (ac­cord­ing to my sub­jec­tive judg­ment) not re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns,

  • $30.6 mil­lion that are rele­vant to cor­po­rate cam­paigns, but already in­cluded in the es­ti­mates above. This in­cludes a $10 mil­lion grant to THL, most of which hasn’t been spent yet (it was given in Au­gust 2018).

  • $8.8 mil­lion that were rele­vant for cor­po­rate broiler and cage-free cam­paigns and are not in­cluded in the es­ti­mates above,

  • $5.1 mil­lion that are pos­si­bly rele­vant for cor­po­rate cam­paigns.

My sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val of the to­tal amount granted by OpenPhil that was spent be­fore the end of 2018 and is not in­cluded in the es­ti­mate above is $9.7–$14 mil­lion.

I think that now the es­ti­mate in­cludes most of the spend­ing on cor­po­rate cam­paigns, but it ex­cludes some of the spend­ing by or­ga­ni­za­tions like RSPCA, Com­pas­sion Over Killing, An­i­mals Aus­tralia, Hu­mane So­ciety In­ter­na­tional, An­ima, and var­i­ous mem­bers of the Open Wing Alli­ance. Note that some Open Wing Alli­ance mem­bers are funded through THL, and this fund­ing is already in­cluded. Fi­nally, some rele­vant work early on was also done by PETA. My sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val of spend­ing that is still not in­cluded is $2.8–$10 mil­lion.

After sum­ming all these num­bers up in Guessti­mate, I get that the to­tal spend­ing is $70–$100 mil­lion. After ad­just­ing for in­fla­tion,[27] it’s $74–$110 mil­lion. How­ever, I think that this con­fi­dence in­ter­val is too nar­row be­cause Guessti­mate treats con­fi­dence in­ter­vals for each year as in­de­pen­dent, but they are not. For ex­am­ple, if I un­der­es­ti­mated how much HSUS spent on cor­po­rate cam­paigns in 2012, I most likely un­der­es­ti­mated HSUS spend­ing in 2013 as well. Fur­ther­more, OpenPhil (2016) es­ti­mates that “about $2.5 mil­lion has been spent in to­tal on cor­po­rate cage-free cam­paigns” un­til the ar­ti­cle was writ­ten in 2016.[28] Ac­cord­ing to my es­ti­ma­tion, $17 mil­lion to $38 mil­lion was spent on ac­tivi­ties re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns be­tween 2005 and 2015. Even though, con­trary to the OpenPhil es­ti­mate, my es­ti­mate in­cludes some re­lated un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions and other ex­penses, OpenPhil es­ti­mate makes me think that most likely I over­es­ti­mated how much was spent in this pe­riod. To ac­count for these con­sid­er­a­tions, I widen my con­fi­dence in­ter­val of the to­tal spend­ing on ac­tivi­ties re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns to $54–$120 mil­lion.

I also asked Lewis Bol­lard to guess how much of the spend­ing was re­lated to broiler cam­paigns rather than cage-free cam­paigns each year. His ed­u­cated guesses can be seen in the table be­low. I con­verted them all to sub­jec­tive con­fi­dence in­ter­vals and es­ti­mated that the to­tal spend­ing on broiler cam­paigns is $16–$42 mil­lion. Note that I con­sider un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions about broiler con­di­tions to be rele­vant to broiler cam­paigns. If I didn’t, the spend­ing on broiler cam­paigns be­fore 2016 would be close to zero.


The mean of my 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­vals for 2005-2015 is higher than Bol­lard’s es­ti­mate be­cause a sig­nifi­cant por­tion of rele­vant spend­ing in that time was on un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and it seems that there was a similar num­ber of in­ves­ti­ga­tions about hens and broilers, al­though I’m un­sure.

Other costs that could be included

When do­ing cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mates, it’s not triv­ial to de­ter­mine which costs to take into ac­count be­cause so many out­comes are in­ter­de­pen­dent.[29] In this sec­tion, I ex­plain why I de­cided to ex­clude some costs, how it could be ar­gued that they should be in­cluded, and how would their in­clu­sion change the cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mate.

Fu­ture costs of en­sur­ing com­pli­ance to commitments

In the Fol­low-through rate sec­tion , I men­tioned that one dis­ad­van­tage of this es­ti­mate is that it doesn’t take into ac­count fu­ture costs that may have to be spent on en­sur­ing com­pli­ance. Ways to en­sure com­pli­ance are listed in Šimčikas (2019).

CIWF’s state­ment of trans­parency claims that:

After con­sul­ta­tion with other farmed an­i­mal welfare or­ga­ni­za­tions and ex­perts, we de­cided that the cost and effort of ob­tain­ing an ini­tial com­mit­ment com­prises 50 per­cent of an or­ga­ni­za­tion’s over­all cost. The re­main­ing 50 per­cent of the cost is at­tributed to fol­low­ing up with a com­pany in sub­se­quent years to as­sure the de­tails of the com­mit­ment are im­ple­mented and dead­lines are met.

Note that in the cita­tion above, the costs of ob­tain­ing com­mit­ments prob­a­bly doesn’t in­clude the costs of re­lated ac­tivi­ties like un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions done in years prior. Nev­er­the­less, if we as­sumed that en­sur­ing the com­pli­ance to com­mit­ments that are already won will cost as much as was spent on all ac­tivi­ties as­so­ci­ated with cor­po­rate cam­paigns be­tween 2005 and 2018 ($54M to $120M), we would need to di­vide the cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mate by two. In my opinion, that wouldn’t change the con­clu­sion that cor­po­rate cam­paigns are very cost-effec­tive, but it’s pos­si­ble that en­sur­ing com­pli­ance will cost even more. Note that for the sake of sim­plic­ity and be­ing con­ser­va­tive, I as­sumed that fol­low-through rates would re­main the same.

Bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives and lobbying

I de­cided to ex­clude the costs and im­pact of leg­is­la­tive ini­ti­a­tives from the main es­ti­ma­tion be­cause I thought that their cost-effec­tive­ness is a sep­a­rate topic that should be ad­dressed on its own. That would al­low us to com­pare the cost-effec­tive­ness of cor­po­rate cam­paigns and leg­is­la­tive ini­ti­a­tives. How­ever, I’m un­sure if ex­clud­ing leg­is­la­tive costs was the right de­ci­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to Josh Balk from HSUS, cor­po­rate and le­gal bans feed off each other in a pos­i­tive way, and it was the com­bi­na­tion of pass­ing laws and work­ing with cor­po­rate en­tities that has driven the is­sue for­ward. “Leg­is­la­tors want to know what cor­po­ra­tions are do­ing, and cor­po­ra­tions want to know what leg­is­la­tors are do­ing, so both types of effort help each other.” Hence, it could be ar­gued that it doesn’t make sense to es­ti­mate the cost-effec­tive­ness of cor­po­rate cam­paigns with­out in­clud­ing the costs of achiev­ing rele­vant an­i­mal welfare laws.

There have been sev­eral rele­vant bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives in the U.S.:

  • Cal­ifor­nia’s Propo­si­tion 2 (2008) which banned bat­tery cages within Cal­ifor­nia. An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors (2018a) cites HSUS’s work on this propo­si­tion as lead­ing to 2015 McDon­ald’s cage-free com­mit­ment, which pre­ceded a se­ries of similar com­mit­ments from other com­pa­nies. At the time, it was ex­pected that the leg­is­la­tion will cause pro­duc­ers to go cage-free, which may have made com­pa­nies less re­luc­tant to make cage-free pledges. Ac­cord­ing to bal­lot­pe­, $10.5 mil­lion was spent on the “yes” cam­paign for the propo­si­tion.

  • Mas­sachusetts Ques­tion 3 (2016) banned the sale and pro­duc­tion of eggs from hens raised in bat­tery cages within the state. It also es­tab­lished space min­i­mum re­quire­ments that might have made the op­tion of caging hens less ap­peal­ing to the pro­duc­ers, in­creas­ing the prob­a­bil­ity that they will go cage-free (rather than switch to en­riched cages). Ac­cord­ing to bal­lot­pe­, $2.7 mil­lion was spent on the “yes” cam­paign.

  • Cal­ifor­nia’s Propo­si­tion 12 (2018) fixed some of the prob­lems of Propo­si­tion 2, and banned the sale and pro­duc­tion of caged eggs in the state. I already took into ac­count the effect this leg­is­la­tion will have in Cal­ifor­nia, but it might also in­crease the fol­low-through rate in the whole U.S. as it is an­other sig­nal to egg pro­duc­ers that the fu­ture is cage-free. Ac­cord­ing to bal­lot­pe­, $12.5 mil­lion was spent on the “yes” cam­paign.

Ac­cord­ing to bal­lot­pe­ data cited above, about $25.7 mil­lion was spent on these ini­ti­a­tives in to­tal. Since my es­ti­mated spend­ing on cage-free cam­paigns is $36–$84 mil­lion, in­clud­ing costs as­so­ci­ated with these ini­ti­a­tives would sig­nifi­cantly in­crease the costs and re­duce the es­ti­mated cost-effec­tive­ness. How­ever, ini­ti­a­tives in Cal­ifor­nia and Mas­sachusetts also in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion re­gard­ing calves and pigs. Hence it could be said that this spend­ing is only par­tially rele­vant.

HSUS work also led to Wash­ing­ton ban­ning the sale and pro­duc­tion of eggs from caged hens, Ore­gon ban­ning the sale and pro­duc­tion of eggs from caged hens for egg pro­duc­ers with more than 3,000 hens, and Ohio plac­ing a mora­to­rium on build­ing new bat­tery cages. Ac­cord­ing to a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion with Lewis Bol­lard, the costs of vic­to­ries in Wash­ing­ton and Ohio were low. Note that leg­is­la­tion that bans bat­tery cages may also help cage-free com­mit­ments be­cause en­riched cages are more ex­pen­sive, which makes it less prof­itable for pro­duc­ers to keep hens caged.

Another re­lated effort by an­i­mal ad­vo­cates was fight­ing The King Amend­ment (in 2013 and 2018) which would have pre­empted all mean­ingful state laws on the farm an­i­mal welfare. Ac­cord­ing to Bol­lard, it’s un­clear how much was spent on this effort, but the to­tal as­so­ci­ated costs prob­a­bly did not ex­ceed $5 mil­lion and pos­si­bly were much lower. This sug­gests that tak­ing these costs into ac­count would only slightly de­crease the es­ti­mated cost-effec­tive­ness.

Fi­nally, there was also some spend­ing as­so­ci­ated with fight­ing ag-gag laws (which seek to crim­i­nal­ize un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions on fac­tory farms), but it’s un­clear if these efforts al­lowed any un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions of hen or broiler con­di­tions. Hence it could be ar­gued that this spend­ing is un­re­lated to cage-free and broiler welfare re­forms.

I’m un­sure how sig­nifi­cant are the costs as­so­ci­ated with leg­is­la­tive cam­paigns in other coun­tries. In a 2017 con­ver­sa­tion, Lewis Bol­lard claims that his “im­pres­sion is that Euro­pean an­i­mal welfare re­forms have, in gen­eral, been driven more by the efforts of tech­no­cratic offi­cials than by or­ga­nized ad­vo­cacy groups, with the ex­cep­tion of Com­pas­sion in World Farm­ing (CIWF), which has con­tributed through or­ga­niz­ing, lob­by­ing, and pe­ti­tion­ing.“ Cur­rently, there is an on­go­ing leg­is­la­tive ini­ti­a­tive by an­i­mal char­i­ties to end cages within the EU.

Sup­port­ing an­i­mal welfare movement

Some or­ga­ni­za­tions don’t work on cor­po­rate cam­paigns di­rectly, but sup­port their work in other ways. For ex­am­ple:

  • An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors (ACE) helps to en­sure that the best char­i­ties re­ceive more fund­ing, do some rele­vant re­search and as­sist an­i­mal or­ga­ni­za­tions in other ways. Ac­cord­ing to their web­site, they spent about $2.1 mil­lion be­tween 2014 and 2018.

  • En­com­pass fosters racial di­ver­sity and in­clu­sivity in an­i­mal welfare move­ment. It was founded in 2017. From their first-year re­port, it seems that their fund­ing is un­der $150,000.

  • 80,000 Hours pos­si­bly helps with find­ing tal­ent, but most of its re­sources are spent on ac­tivi­ties that are not rele­vant.

Over­all, while spend­ing by such or­ga­ni­za­tions could be rele­vant, only a frac­tion of their spend­ing could be re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns, and I think that in­clud­ing such costs would only make a small differ­ence on the fi­nal re­sult.


Other ac­tivi­ties that are loosely re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns but not in­cluded in the costs es­ti­mate are:

  • Welfare re­forms for other farm an­i­mals, in­clud­ing phas­ing out ges­ta­tion crates, veal crates, and fur. It could be ar­gued that they cre­ated prece­dent and mo­men­tum for an­i­mal welfare move­ment, and in­creased the le­gi­t­i­macy of some an­i­mal or­ga­ni­za­tions, which helped the effec­tive­ness of cage-free and broiler cam­paigns. In Europe and the U.S., these costs are already in the past and not rele­vant when con­sid­er­ing fu­ture cost-effec­tive­ness. In coun­tries where con­cern for an­i­mal welfare is not yet com­mon, such cam­paigns could be use­ful as a step­ping stone to build up to cage-free and broiler cam­paigns. How­ever, I think that the cost-effec­tive­ness of such cam­paigns should be es­ti­mated sep­a­rately. Fur­ther­more, this effect might be bal­anced-out by cage-free and broiler cam­paigns cre­at­ing a prece­dent and mo­men­tum for other asks (e.g., fish welfare cam­paigns).

  • At least some ve­gan/​veg­e­tar­ian/​re­duc­etar­ian ad­vo­cacy may have made peo­ple more aware and more likely to care about how an­i­mals are treated, es­pe­cially in­di­vi­d­ual out­reach that em­pha­sized cru­elty. Such out­reach can take many forms: doc­u­men­taries, books, con­ver­sa­tions, ads, leaflets, etc. This is spec­u­la­tive, but for some char­i­ties, do­ing these ac­tivi­ties can maybe help to cre­ate a fol­low­ing that can then be used for cor­po­rate cam­paigns. Fur­ther­more, many peo­ple who now work or vol­un­teer for cor­po­rate cam­paigns be­came in­ter­ested in an­i­mal is­sues be­cause of ve­gan out­reach, which means that some of the cur­rent suc­cess of cor­po­rate cam­paigns could be at­tributed to ve­gan out­reach done many years ago. How­ever, I think that this would be go­ing too far down the causal chain. I think we shouldn’t in­clude costs of ve­gan out­reach for the same rea­son we shouldn’t in­clude the costs of schools that an­i­mal ac­tivists went to. That is, the re­sult­ing es­ti­mate would be less helpful for de­cid­ing whether to fund more cor­po­rate cam­paigns.

  • Farm an­i­mal sanc­tu­ar­ies that are open to the pub­lic. They en­able peo­ple to in­ter­act with farm an­i­mals, which may in­crease em­pa­thy for them, which could help cor­po­rate cam­paigns. How­ever, the effect is very in­di­rect and prob­a­bly minor, while the costs are very high. For ex­am­ple, the to­tal func­tional ex­penses of the char­ity Farm Sanc­tu­ary be­tween 2005 and 2017 were over $98 mil­lion. Also, sanc­tu­ar­ies could have ad­verse effects on welfare re­forms by giv­ing some peo­ple a false im­pres­sion that farm an­i­mals are liv­ing in ac­cept­able con­di­tions.

  • Fundrais­ing costs, and pro­grams that are done for the pur­pose of fundrais­ing. I think these should not be in­cluded in the costs be­cause they pay for them­selves, and are not rele­vant for donors who are con­sid­er­ing fund­ing cor­po­rate cam­paigns.

Aver­age lifespan


Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Chicken Coun­cil, the mean slaugh­ter age for broilers is 47 days in the U.S. Ac­cord­ing to the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion (2016), in the EU broilers are slaugh­tered at the av­er­age age of 42 days. In my the Guessti­mate model, I use a 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val of 43 to 48 days. The es­ti­mate is closer to the U.S. av­er­age be­cause ac­cord­ing to my es­ti­mate, most (53% to 90%) of the af­fected broilers are in the U.S. If we mul­ti­ply this by the num­ber of broilers af­fected per dol­lar (1.7 to 720), we get that 0.2 to 90 broiler-years are af­fected per dol­lar spent on broiler cam­paigns.


In the case of cage-free com­mit­ments, we es­ti­mated how many hens are af­fected at any point in time.[30] This means that to get the num­ber of hen-years that were shifted from caged to cage-free sys­tems, we only need to mul­ti­ply the es­ti­mated num­ber of hens af­fected ev­ery year by the pre­dicted mean years of im­pact. To es­ti­mate how many hen life­times will be af­fected, we need to di­vide this re­sult by the av­er­age time hens spend in cages. Ac­cord­ing to an An­i­mal Char­i­ties Eval­u­a­tors es­ti­mate, it is 1.27±0.14 years.

Note that this figure ex­cludes the first 16 weeks of hen’s life dur­ing which they don’t lay eggs. CIWF claims in this pe­riod they “are nor­mally raised at a grow­ing site, typ­i­cally a barn sys­tem al­though more farms are be­gin­ning to rear in the type of sys­tems that the birds will even­tu­ally lay in.” If many hens are kept in sys­tems they will even­tu­ally lay in, that in­creases the num­ber of years af­fected by cage-free com­mit­ments be­cause some hens will be­come cage-free dur­ing the first 16 weeks of their lives as well. How­ever, I do not take that into ac­count for the sake of sim­plic­ity, and be­cause I think it would prob­a­bly be challeng­ing to find what per­centage of hens this ap­plies to.

Ways this es­ti­mate could be misleading

In this sec­tion, I list con­sid­er­a­tions that were not taken into ac­count in the cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mate but could im­pact our opinion about the cost-effec­tive­ness of cor­po­rate cam­paigns. I skip fac­tors that I already dis­cussed in pre­vi­ous sec­tions.

If a con­sid­er­a­tion should in­crease the cost-effec­tive­ness cor­po­rate cam­paigns, I mark it with (+). If it de­creases, I mark it with (-). If it’s un­clear whether it in­creases or de­creases cost-effec­tive­ness, I mark it with (?). The num­ber of sym­bols in the paren­the­ses shows how im­por­tant I con­sider the ar­gu­ment to be. For ex­am­ple, (+++) de­notes con­sid­er­a­tions that I think greatly in­crease the cost-effec­tive­ness, (++) de­notes mod­er­ate in­crease, and (+) de­notes a slight in­crease. Note that the strength of each con­sid­er­a­tion is based only on my sub­jec­tive opinion.

Indi­rect effects

In the es­ti­mate, I only con­sider the di­rect short-term effects of cor­po­rate cam­paigns. How­ever, they also have many in­di­rect effects that could be more im­por­tant:

  • (+++) In the costs es­ti­mate, I in­cluded the costs of un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions which have many other pos­i­tive effects. Most im­por­tantly, they in­crease pub­lic aware­ness and con­cern about farm an­i­mal suffer­ing which could lead to a va­ri­ety of pos­i­tive im­pacts in both the short term and the long term. Cor­po­rate cam­paigns may also have a similar effect.

  • (++) Un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions and cor­po­rate cam­paigns also aided le­gal and leg­is­la­tive efforts to help farmed an­i­mals.

  • (+) This is very spec­u­la­tive, but welfare cam­paigns could in­fluence sci­en­tists to work on cul­tured meat and eggs by show­ing and re­mind­ing them that cru­elty in egg and chicken pro­duc­tion is an im­por­tant and un­solved is­sue.

  • Adopt­ing welfare re­forms would af­fect how many an­i­mals are farmed for food:

    • (- - -) The broiler ask in­cludes a re­quire­ment to use higher welfare breeds which gen­er­ally grow more slowly. But us­ing slower grow­ing broiler breeds would in­crease the num­ber of broilers that have to be al­ive at any point in time to pro­duce the same amount of meat.[31] The is­sue has been dis­cussed in more de­tail by An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors (2017a).

    • (+++) Welfare re­forms may in­crease the price of chicken and eggs, and con­se­quently, re­duce con­sump­tion and pro­duc­tion.[32]

  • (- - -) Some an­i­mal rights ad­vo­cates ar­gue that welfare re­forms may be in­effec­tive or even coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to the goal of abo­li­tion of all an­i­mal ex­ploita­tion, which they feel should be the goal of an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy. They worry that ad­vo­cat­ing for welfare re­forms sug­gests that treat­ing an­i­mals as prop­erty and kil­ling them can be ac­cept­able. Fur­ther­more they ar­gue that con­sumers are mis­led by re­forms into think­ing that an­i­mals now live in hu­mane con­di­tions, which makes it more difficult to achieve more rad­i­cal changes (see PETA (2017), Wrenn and John­son (2013), Burns (2015)). How­ever, there are also ar­gu­ments and pieces of ev­i­dence that sug­gest that re­forms could lead to a mo­men­tum for an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy move­ment rather than com­pla­cency. See an ex­cel­lent sum­mary of ar­gu­ments for both sides in Sen­tience In­sti­tute (2018). Also note that this dis­agree­ment about whether welfare re­forms should be pur­sued causes in­fight­ing within an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy, which could hurt our cred­i­bil­ity.

  • (- -) Ac­cord­ing to King (2019), some pro­duc­ers re­act to cage-free com­mit­ments by build­ing new cage-free fa­cil­ities, but not de­stroy­ing old con­ven­tional caged houses which don’t yet need to be re­placed. This could in­crease the over­all amount of hens (and suffer­ing) in the short term. I don’t know how sig­nifi­cant this effect is, it might de­serve fur­ther re­search.

  • (-) Shifts to higher welfare prod­ucts can be costly, which can hurt the econ­omy and put some peo­ple into difficult fi­nan­cial situ­a­tions. King (2019) claims that cage-free pro­duc­tion re­quires more skil­led work­ers, which could mean that peo­ple who don’t have re­quired skills could lose their jobs.

  • (-) Na­tional Chicken Coun­cil ar­gues that slower grow­ing broiler breeds will have higher en­vi­ron­men­tal costs: more feed, fuel, land, and wa­ter will be needed. Similarly, ac­cord­ing to Xin et al. (2011), “hens in noncage houses are less effi­cient in re­source (feed, en­ergy, and land) uti­liza­tion, lead­ing to a greater car­bon foot­print.” Note that in gen­eral, en­vi­ron­men­tal effects of chicken and eggs seem to be sig­nifi­cantly smaller than effects of pork, lamb, and beef. For ex­am­ple, see An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors (2018b) for a com­par­i­son of wa­ter and car­bon foot­prints.

  • (???) Since welfare re­forms have en­vi­ron­men­tal effects, they also have an im­pact on wild an­i­mal welfare. I will not spec­u­late about whether these effects are pos­i­tive or nega­tive, but it’s pos­si­ble that this is a dom­i­nant con­sid­er­a­tion when con­sid­er­ing the over­all short-term im­pact of welfare re­forms on an­i­mal suffer­ing.

  • (???) It’s un­clear whether cor­po­rate cam­paigns could have some effect on the long-term fu­ture. For ex­am­ple, welfare re­forms could in­crease the prob­a­bil­ity of an­i­mal farm­ing be­ing used thou­sands or even mil­lions of years into the fu­ture by sug­gest­ing that farm­ing an­i­mals can be ac­cept­able if an­i­mals are treated bet­ter. Or it could de­crease this prob­a­bil­ity by mak­ing an­i­mal farm­ing more ex­pen­sive and spread­ing the con­cern about farm an­i­mal suffer­ing. Whether an­i­mals are be­ing farmed in the fu­ture could de­ter­mine whether an­i­mal farm­ing will be spread in in­ter­stel­lar coloniza­tion efforts. Of course, all of this is ex­tremely spec­u­la­tive, and it seems un­likely that cor­po­rate cam­paigns could have this kind of im­pact. How­ever, it could be ar­gued that even a small prob­a­bil­ity of cor­po­rate cam­paigns im­pact­ing far fu­ture could dom­i­nate the cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mate.

  • (???) Black Swans: I’m not sure that I con­sid­ered all of the most im­por­tant effects. The most im­por­tant out­come of cor­po­rate cam­paigns could be difficult to fore­see.

  • (??) Welfare re­forms af­fect pre-slaugh­ter mor­tal­ity, which in­fluences how many an­i­mals need to be grown to meet the de­mand. The differ­ence in mor­tal­ity be­tween aviary (cage-free) and bat­tery cage sys­tems for hens is ex­am­ined in Co­tra (2017). Ac­cord­ing to it, the hy­poth­e­sis that best ex­plains the ev­i­dence is that aviaries have an ab­nor­mally high mor­tal­ity in a “tran­si­tion pe­riod” while farm­ers learn best prac­tices for man­ag­ing an aviary sys­tem and breed­ers adapt hen strains for the new en­vi­ron­ment. The post-tran­si­tion mor­tal­ity in aviaries might be roughly similar to mor­tal­ity in bat­tery cages, though the au­thor is un­cer­tain whether that will be the case. I would guess that the mor­tal­ity of higher welfare broilers will be lower, but I haven’t seen any re­search on this ques­tion.

Why cost-effec­tive­ness in the fu­ture might be different

I es­ti­mated cost-effec­tive­ness of past cam­paigns. There are many rea­sons why cost-effec­tive­ness go­ing for­ward might be differ­ent:

  • (++) The es­ti­mate in­cludes some costs that will not have to be spent again, like set­ting up an­i­mal welfare or­ga­ni­za­tions, build­ing ex­per­tise and mo­men­tum. In other words, the costs I es­ti­mated re­sulted not only in achieved com­mit­ments, but also the in­fras­truc­ture that can be used to achieve more com­mit­ments in the fu­ture, in­clud­ing fish welfare com­mit­ments. Such in­fras­truc­ture still has to be cre­ated in some coun­tries though, but even then the ex­per­tise built in other coun­tries helps, as an­i­mal ac­tivists can share knowl­edge.

  • (- - -) It’s un­clear how many good asks we have. Re­quiring for hens to be cage-free is a great ask be­cause it makes a big differ­ence for a large num­ber of an­i­mals, rel­a­tively cheap to im­ple­ment, is easy to un­der­stand for the pub­lic, it’s easy to see whether pro­duc­ers are com­ply­ing to the re­quire­ment, and it doesn’t re­quire the in­ven­tion of any new tech­nolo­gies. It could be ar­gued that the broiler ask ticks less of these boxes. In par­tic­u­lar, it’s more difficult for the pub­lic to un­der­stand it. It could be that there aren’t many other good asks that an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy move­ment can de­mand, which would mean that we should ex­pect lower cost-effec­tive­ness of cor­po­rate cam­paigns go­ing for­ward.

  • (- -) Com­pa­nies learn, and the same strate­gies may not work for­ever. How­ever, an­i­mal ac­tivists learn and adapt as well, ar­guably at a faster pace be­cause they spend more time on cam­paigns. That said, if an­i­mal or­gani­sa­tions will have to use differ­ent tac­tics in the fu­ture to adapt to learn­ing com­pa­nies, the cost-effec­tive­ness of past cam­paigns might still be not pre­dic­tive of the cost-effec­tive­ness of fu­ture cam­paigns.

  • (- -) Re­gres­sion to the mean. So far, cor­po­rate cam­paigns had an un­usu­ally high im­pact per dol­lar spent com­pared to other in­ter­ven­tions. It might not be rea­son­able to ex­pect such un­usual cost-effec­tive­ness to con­tinue in­definitely.

  • (-) Fu­ture cam­paigns could be­come less effec­tive due to an over­sat­u­ra­tion of similar cam­paigns. If peo­ple get used to see­ing com­pa­nies be­ing shamed for us­ing low welfare prod­ucts, they might pay less at­ten­tion to each in­di­vi­d­ual cam­paign, un­der­stand­ing that al­most all the choices of an­i­mal prod­ucts re­quire suffer­ing. This could lead to them re­duc­ing an­i­mal product con­sump­tion, but it could also lead to in­differ­ence to cor­po­rate cam­paigns.

  • (-) An­i­mal ac­tivists might have already picked low hang­ing fruits by cam­paign­ing against most suit­able sec­tors and com­pa­nies.

  • (-) As I ex­plain in Šimčikas (2019), there were some un­usual cir­cum­stances that may have made com­pa­nies more likely to make cage-free pledges in the U.S. In turn, this may have made pledges eas­ier to win el­se­where as many coun­tries look at the west­ern coun­tries as an ex­am­ple of what to do. If that was a sig­nifi­cant fac­tor, the cost-effec­tive­ness of some past cage-free cam­paigns is less in­dica­tive of the cost-effec­tive­ness we should ex­pect go­ing for­ward.

  • Ad­di­tional fund­ing to cor­po­rate cam­paigns might lead to ex­pan­sion to other coun­tries. But cost-effec­tive­ness in these other coun­tries might be very differ­ent than in Europe and the U.S., where most of the cam­paigns hap­pened so far, be­cause:

    • (++) An­i­mal ad­vo­cacy move­ment has learned a lot about how to do cor­po­rate cam­paigns and wouldn’t make the same mis­takes again.

    • (+) In most coun­tries labour is cheaper than in Europe and the U.S. which would de­crease the costs

    • (- -) In Europe and the U.S., there was already a long his­tory of an­i­mal ac­tivism and some­what wide­spread pub­lic con­cern for farmed an­i­mals in 2005, but in many other coun­tries (e.g. China and Ukraine) such con­cern is still un­com­mon. To make progress in such coun­tries, ac­tivist may first have to in­vest in cre­at­ing such a con­cern.

    • (- -) Most of the progress in the U.S. and Europe has been achieved by cam­paign­ing against gro­cers. How­ever, in some coun­tries like In­dia and Mex­ico, most eggs and chicken are bought in in­for­mal mar­kets, rather than in gro­cers like Wal­mart or Tesco that could be tar­gets of cor­po­rate cam­paigns. This limits what cor­po­rate cam­paigns can achieve in these coun­tries.

    • (- -) Other coun­tries might have differ­ent cir­cum­stances and cul­ture (es­pe­cially cor­po­rate cul­ture). For ex­am­ple, in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, peo­ple might be more op­posed to price in­creases that are as­so­ci­ated with welfare re­forms. In Brazil, it might be more difficult for cam­paigns to get at­ten­tion be­cause there are so many other is­sues and ini­ti­a­tives. It could be that in coun­tries like Ja­pan, it’s not ap­pro­pri­ate to en­gage in sham­ing cam­paigns the way it is done in the U.S. Fi­nally, pro­duc­ers might be more re­sis­tant to changes in coun­tries that have no cage-free pro­duc­tion that could be scaled up.

    • (-) All things be­ing equal, we should ex­pect cor­po­rate cam­paigns to help more an­i­mals per dol­lar in coun­tries with high egg and chicken con­sump­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the 2018 is­sue of Poul­try Trends (page 10), per cap­ita poul­try con­sump­tion in the U.S. and the EU is much higher than in other parts of the World (ex­cept Latin Amer­ica and the Car­ribean). The U.S. and Europe also have sig­nifi­cantly higher per cap­ita egg con­sump­tion com­pared to other parts of the world (see the chart be­low).[33] Graph2

  • (??) A much more sig­nifi­cant per­centage of spend­ing in the fu­ture will be on en­sur­ing com­pli­ance. The cost-effec­tive­ness of this spend­ing could be differ­ent.

  • (??) Cul­tured meat and eggs may change the land­scape of the food in­dus­try. That could change the cost-effec­tive­ness of cor­po­rate cam­paigns in a va­ri­ety of ways.[34]

How this es­ti­mate could be incorrect

  • (+++) Once the ma­jor­ity of hens in the re­gion are cage-free, it could even­tu­ally lead to all hens be­com­ing cage-free within that re­gion. After the de­p­re­ca­tion pe­riod of caged sys­tems (which is about 30 years), pro­duc­ers are un­likely to build new caged sys­tems if most com­pa­nies will re­fuse to buy caged eggs. Fur­ther­more, pro­duc­ers may be afraid of fur­ther cage-free cam­paigns. It’s a similar situ­a­tion with broiler welfare changes: ei­ther a minor­ity, or al­most all pro­duc­ers within a re­gion will adopt higher welfare prod­ucts. As a re­sult, I may have un­der­es­ti­mated the num­ber of an­i­mals that will even­tu­ally benefit from cor­po­rate cam­paigns vic­to­ries, be­cause com­mit­ments could also even­tu­ally af­fect what eggs and broilers are used by com­pa­nies that made no com­mit­ments. If all this is true, per­haps a bet­ter cost-effec­tive­ness model would es­ti­mate the prob­a­bil­ity of var­i­ous re­gions (e.g., U.S., Brazil, East Europe) go­ing 100% cage-free and mul­ti­ply those prob­a­bil­ities by hen pop­u­la­tions within those re­gions, rather than try to es­ti­mate the num­ber of hens cov­ered by com­mit­ments.

  • (+) The es­ti­mate in­cludes some of the costs, but none of the benefits of cam­paigns that were on­go­ing as of the end of 2018 (e.g., Mc­don­ald’s broiler cam­paign).

  • (+) In the es­ti­ma­tion, I did not in­clude the effects of 2016 United Egg Pro­duc­ers’ (rep­re­sen­ta­tives of more than 95 per­cent of egg pro­duc­tion in the U.S.) com­mit­ment to stop the cul­ling of day-old male chicks by 2020 or as soon as it is com­mer­cially available and eco­nom­i­cally fea­si­ble.[35]

  • (- -) My knowl­edge about cor­po­rate cam­paigns comes mostly from talk­ing with peo­ple who work on them or sup­port them. But these are the peo­ple who are also most likely to be op­ti­mistic about cor­po­rate cam­paigns. This might have bi­ased me to­wards view­ing cor­po­rate cam­paigns too op­ti­misti­cally.

  • (-) If only a few com­pa­nies within a coun­try com­mit to go­ing cage-free, and there is already some cage-free pro­duc­tion in the coun­try, com­pa­nies with no com­mit­ments could switch from cage-free eggs to caged eggs, and com­mit­ments could the­o­ret­i­cally be fulfilled with­out any change in egg pro­duc­tion. How­ever, com­mit­ments would still in­crease the de­mand for cage-free eggs, which would prob­a­bly even­tu­ally in­crease pro­duc­tion. Note that this is not a sig­nifi­cant con­cern in coun­tries like the U.S., where the per­centage of eggs cov­ered by com­mit­ments is much higher than the pro­duc­tion of caged eggs. Also, I am not sure it is a sig­nifi­cant con­cern in any coun­tries since com­pa­nies are prob­a­bly buy­ing cage-free eggs for a rea­son, and prob­a­bly wouldn’t switch back to caged eggs when the pub­lic is be­com­ing more con­cerned about chicken welfare.

  • (-) In the char­ity sec­tor, em­ploy­ees of­ten take lower salaries than the ones they could get work­ing in other sec­tors. It’s pos­si­ble that some of them would have donated some of the ad­di­tional money they would have earned, or would have vol­un­teered in their free time. Un­for­tu­nately, it would be very difficult to take such lost con­tri­bu­tions into the ac­count. We should just be aware that a char­ity may be less cost-effec­tive than es­ti­mates sug­gest if it em­ploys peo­ple who would have made sig­nifi­cant al­tru­is­tic con­tri­bu­tions even if they weren’t em­ployed by that char­ity. Note that this con­sid­er­a­tion ap­plies to al­most any cause.

  • (???) Model un­cer­tainty. If I had cho­sen to model the cost-effec­tive­ness of cor­po­rate cam­paigns differ­ently, I could have got­ten sub­stan­tially differ­ent re­sults. For ex­am­ple:

    • I’m un­sure if in­clud­ing the costs of un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions and ex­clud­ing the costs of leg­is­la­tive ini­ti­a­tives was the right choice.

    • I’m un­sure if in­clud­ing the costs and benefits of cam­paigns that go as far back as 2005 was the right choice.

    • Maybe I should have used a cluster ap­proach or Bayesian up­dat­ing to es­ti­mate some of the val­ues.

    • Maybe I should have taken into ac­count some of the in­di­rect effects that I list in the sub­sec­tion above.

    • Fi­nally, I could have made some er­rors within the model.

  • (??) The es­ti­mate doesn’t take into ac­count the costs and in­di­rect effects of vol­un­teer work on cor­po­rate cam­paigns (see the first ap­pendix).

  • (??) Many pit­falls of in­ter­pret­ing cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mates within an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy are ex­plained by Sethu (2018). In short, we must think on the mar­gin, and not con­fuse short-term effi­ciency for long-term im­pact, be­cause all out­comes in an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy are very in­ter­de­pen­dent. I en­courage read­ers to read the full blog post.

It’s un­clear whether com­bined, these con­sid­er­a­tions should in­crease or de­crease how cost-effec­tive we should con­sider cor­po­rate cam­paigns to be. In to­tal, there are 3 con­sid­er­a­tions that I marked as (+++), 3 as (++), 4 as (+), 3 as (- - -), 7 as (- -), and 8 as (-).

Other considerations

  • Are re­forms good for an­i­mals? Even though most agree that ad­vo­cated changes will benefit the an­i­mals, there is some dis­cus­sion about it. For ex­am­ple, Capriati (2018) claims that their sub­jec­tive prob­a­bil­ity of cage-free and broiler poli­cies caus­ing harm is be­tween 5 and 10%.

    • The effect of the tran­si­tion to cage-free hous­ing on hen welfare is an­a­lyzed in de­tail in Co­tra (2017). Note that if cage-free cam­paigns never hap­pened, many hens may have been kept in en­riched cages rather than bat­tery cages. This is es­pe­cially true in the EU where bat­tery cages are banned (see Steven­son (2012)). The differ­ence be­tween bat­tery cages and en­riched cages is ex­plained here. Fur­ther­more, the sig­nifi­cance of go­ing cage-free also de­pends on what cage-free sys­tem is used (barn, or­ganic, or free range).

    • As dis­cussed be­fore, one of the re­quire­ments in the broiler ask is us­ing higher welfare breeds, which tend to grow more slowly. Con­se­quently, broilers would need to suffer the life in poor con­di­tions for longer.

  • I es­ti­mated the cost-effec­tive­ness of all cor­po­rate cam­paigns put to­gether, but I think that there is a high var­i­ance in cost-effec­tive­ness within the spend­ing as­so­ci­ated with cor­po­rate cam­paigns. Some costly ac­tivi­ties may have had lit­tle to no im­pact, while other ac­tivi­ties had an even higher im­pact per dol­lar spent. I think that in many cases in­formed donors could have pre­dicted which op­por­tu­ni­ties would be more cost-effec­tive in ad­vance.

  • I do not dis­cuss room for more fund­ing in this ar­ti­cle. Cost-effec­tive­ness of an ad­di­tional mil­lion dol­lars in­vested in cor­po­rate cam­paigns might be differ­ent (most likely lower) be­cause it would be spent differ­ently (e.g., on ad­ver­tis­ing in­stead of staff). It seems that many more cam­paigns could be funded as there is no short­age of po­ten­tial tar­gets around the world. How­ever, as already dis­cussed, ac­tivists are prob­a­bly already fo­cus­ing on the most suit­able tar­gets, so the cam­paign that a marginal dol­lar would fund is likely to be less cost-effec­tive. Of course, more money could also be spent on ex­ist­ing cor­po­rate cam­paigns (es­pe­cially when it comes to ad­ver­tis­ing), but there are prob­a­bly diminish­ing re­turns here as well. Also note that char­i­ties that do cor­po­rate cam­paigns have been grow­ing at a fast pace in the last five years, and it’s an open ques­tion how much more this growth can be sped up with ad­di­tional fund­ing with­out sac­ri­fic­ing qual­ity.

  • Since some char­i­ties that do cor­po­rate cam­paigns also have other pro­grams (e.g., ve­gan ad­vo­cacy), donat­ing to these char­i­ties could re­sult in in­creased spend­ing on these other pro­grams rather than cam­paigns, even if dona­tions are re­stricted to cor­po­rate cam­paigns.


I es­ti­mated that for ev­ery dol­lar spent on cage-free and broiler cor­po­rate cam­paigns, 9 to 120 chicken years are af­fected. I am pleas­antly sur­prised that such a big differ­ence can be made at the cost of just one dol­lar. Con­se­quently, I would strongly con­sider donat­ing money to ac­tivi­ties re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns. I don’t know of any other al­tru­is­tic in­ter­ven­tion that has this much im­pact per dol­lar spent at rea­son­able ro­bust­ness of the ev­i­dence.

There are many ways this es­ti­mate could be mis­lead­ing, but my in­tu­ition is that none of them would change the con­clu­sion that these cam­paigns have a very big (and most likely pos­i­tive) short-term im­pact rel­a­tive to their costs. How­ever, in­di­rect effects on an­i­mal product con­sump­tion, moral cir­cle ex­pan­sion, and wild an­i­mal welfare could be more im­por­tant than di­rect effects, and I am un­cer­tain if they are pos­i­tive. Per­haps these effects should be ex­am­ined in fur­ther re­search.

Work­ing on this es­ti­mate also made me ap­pre­ci­ate the com­plex­ity of truly es­ti­mat­ing the cost-effec­tive­ness of any­thing. There are so many fac­tors that I wouldn’t even know how to take into ac­count.

Ap­pendix 1: Pes­simistic estimation

In this ap­pendix, I will use very pes­simistic as­sump­tions to es­ti­mate the lower bound of chicken-years af­fected by cor­po­rate cam­paigns. For the main es­ti­mate, I used soft­ware called Guessti­mate, where even the lower bound of the fi­nal re­sult is in­fluenced by more op­ti­mistic up­per bounds of my sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­vals for val­ues like the fol­low-through rate and mean years of im­pact. In this ap­pendix, I will see what hap­pens if I don’t use Guessti­mate, and sim­ply use pes­simistic point es­ti­mates for all the pa­ram­e­ters. That is, I use lower bounds of my sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­vals for the num­ber of chick­ens cov­ered, fol­low-through rate, and mean years of im­pact, and the up­per bound of the es­ti­mated costs.


As can be seen in the table above, it is pos­si­ble that rel­a­tively few broilers will be af­fected by com­mit­ments, and for this pes­simistic es­ti­ma­tion, their num­ber can be rounded down to zero. How­ever, even if I use the most pes­simistic as­sump­tions that I think could be rea­son­able, I get that cage-free cam­paigns af­fected 5.5 hen-years per dol­lar spent. If we take into ac­count the costs of broiler cam­paigns and as­sume that they will help no an­i­mals at all, the num­ber of hen-years af­fected per dol­lar goes down to 3.7. If we in­cluded the costs of bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives and lob­by­ing in the U.S. (at most $40 mil­lion) and the bud­get of An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors ($2.1 mil­lion), the num­ber would go down to 2.7 hen-years. If we as­sumed that an­other $200 mil­lion would be spent on en­sur­ing com­pli­ance to com­mit­ments that are already won, and didn’t in­crease the fol­low-through rate ac­cord­ingly, we would get that cor­po­rate cam­paigns af­fect 1.25 hen-years per dol­lar spent. In my opinion, that is still very cost-effec­tive com­pared to most al­tru­is­tic in­ter­ven­tions. All calcu­la­tions in this ap­pendix can be seen here.

Ap­pendix 2: Volunteers

I haven’t seen any cost-effec­tive­ness tak­ing into ac­count vol­un­teer time. I’m un­sure about how to do it. To illus­trate why we might want to take it into ac­count in some way, imag­ine many vol­un­teers col­lab­o­rat­ing to do cor­po­rate cam­paigns with­out any paid co­or­di­na­tors, and only hav­ing a small bud­get that is spent on snacks. If we es­ti­mated how many an­i­mals these vol­un­teers af­fect per dol­lar spent, the num­ber could be very high. How­ever, the es­ti­mate wouldn’t be very mean­ingful. For ex­am­ple, we shouldn’t ex­pect their im­pact to dou­ble if we dou­ble their fund­ing for snacks. The­o­ret­i­cally, ad­di­tional fund­ing could even have no effect.

This hy­po­thet­i­cal sce­nario is not nec­es­sar­ily far-fetched. Co-founder of Open Cages Do­brosława Gogłoza claims that Open Cages “ini­tially op­er­ated en­tirely on a vol­un­tary ba­sis — I my­self started work­ing full-time in my own or­ga­ni­za­tion only in the 5th year of its op­er­a­tion.” Even though Open Cages now has many paid em­ploy­ees, vol­un­teers par­ti­ci­pate in the or­ga­ni­za­tion on ev­ery level: as in­ves­ti­ga­tors, fundraisers, IT spe­cial­ists, lawyers, graphic de­sign­ers, cor­po­rate out­reach spe­cial­ists, lob­by­ists, cam­paign co­or­di­na­tors, vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tors, copy­writ­ers, film di­rec­tors, event or­ga­niz­ers, board mem­bers, etc.

I asked Jakub Sten­cel, who works at Open Cages, to es­ti­mate how much vol­un­teer time is spent by vol­un­teers in Poland. His sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val was that there are 50–70 vol­un­teers who work 5–15 hours a week, and 180–230 vol­un­teers who work 2–6 hours a week. That means that there are 610–2,430 vol­un­teer hours spent ev­ery week, which is 15 to 61 full-time equiv­a­lents. I es­ti­mated this by sim­ply di­vid­ing the num­ber of hours per week by 40. For com­par­i­son, Do­brosława Gogłoza claims that Open Cages have 22 em­ploy­ees in Poland. If vol­un­teers were paid Poland’s min­i­mum wages, to­gether they would be paid $105,000 to $423,000 per year. Note that not all vol­un­teers work on tasks that are re­lated to an­i­mal welfare cor­po­rate cam­paigns. For ex­am­ple, 15%–20% of vol­un­teer time is spent on cor­po­rate cam­paigns to en­courage com­pa­nies to use ve­gan in­gre­di­ents, in­crease the port­fo­lio of plant-based op­tions, and ex­pand ve­gan op­tions in menus.

Though vol­un­teer time in Open Cages is sig­nifi­cant, it may be an ex­treme ex­am­ple. To my knowl­edge, there is no other rele­vant or­ga­ni­za­tion that de­pends on vol­un­teers to the same ex­tent. But it seems that most an­i­mal char­i­ties that do cor­po­rate cam­paigns use vol­un­teers for many im­por­tant tasks like:

  • Writ­ing emails and let­ters to com­pa­nies (e.g. Hen Heroes, Fast Ac­tion Net­work)

  • Us­ing so­cial me­dia to put pres­sure on companies

  • Or­ganis­ing ac­tion parties

  • At­tend­ing protests

  • Fundraising

  • Leafleting

Note that it’s not at all clear that vol­un­teer time should be treated as a cost. Vol­un­teer­ing can make peo­ple more en­gaged in an­i­mal is­sues which leads to con­tri­bu­tions of other kinds, like eat­ing a ve­gan diet, donat­ing money to an­i­mal char­i­ties, en­courag­ing friends to take ac­tion, and look­ing for em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties within an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy. It can also act as train­ing for jobs within an­i­mal ad­vo­cacy. Vol­un­teer­ing may also bring per­sonal benefits, like giv­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to make friends and giv­ing more sense of mean­ing to life. Vol­un­teer­ing at more com­plex tasks like mar­ket­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, or IT, can also provide ca­reer ex­pe­rience, in­dus­try knowl­edge, and cre­den­tials like in­tern­ships that can be put on their re­sumes.

Over­all, my in­tu­ition is that this con­sid­er­a­tion should not change the con­clu­sion that cor­po­rate cam­paigns have a very high short-term im­pact rel­a­tive to their costs.

Ap­pendix 3: Pre­vi­ous cost-effec­tive­ness estimates

  • Bol­lard (2016) ex­plains the OpenPhil’s rea­son­ing be­hind the ini­tial grants to sup­port cor­po­rate cage-free re­forms. It con­tains a sim­ple cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mate that doesn’t take into ac­count things like the prob­a­bil­ity that pledges will be im­ple­mented, hens that would have been cage-free with­out the cam­paigns, etc.:

[C]on­ser­va­tively as­sum­ing that the cam­paigns only ac­cel­er­ated pledges by five years, these cam­paigns will spare about 250 hens a year of cage con­fine­ment per dol­lar spent. And even if you add the $1.5 mil­lion dis­burse­ment for the first year of our three grants, and the ~$12.5 mil­lion (at most) spent both on Prop 2 in 2008 and all egg un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions ever done in the U.S., these cam­paigns will still spare about 38 hens a year of cage con­fine­ment per dol­lar spent.

  • Dick­ens (2016) made an es­ti­mate that used the in­for­ma­tion from the quote above to es­ti­mate that cage-free cam­paigns have an effect equiv­a­lent of 204.7 QALYs per dol­lar spent (σ=0.56). In­ter­est­ingly, the es­ti­mate takes into ac­count the val­ues spread­ing effect and room for more fund­ing. How­ever, I think that the con­fi­dence in­ter­vals used in the model are too nar­row.

  • Capriati (2018) from Founders Pledge made a de­tailed es­ti­mate ac­cord­ing to which, be­tween 2015 and 2018, “THL has achieved an out­come roughly as good as 10 hen-years shift from bat­tery cages to aviaries per dol­lar re­ceived.”

  • An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors (ACE) crudely es­ti­mates a sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val of the num­ber of an­i­mals spared by var­i­ous char­i­ties ev­ery year. 2018 CEE Model for The Hu­mane League es­ti­mates that THL did the equiv­a­lent of spar­ing −8 to 21 an­i­mals per dol­lar spent in 2018. The nega­tive value in the lower bound is partly due to the un­cer­tainty about whether cage-free and broiler re­forms are pos­i­tive for an­i­mals. If we ig­nore this un­cer­tainty, by mod­ify­ing the model, we can see that ac­cord­ing to ACE es­ti­mates, THL’s cor­po­rate cam­paigns af­fected 2.2 to 150 broilers, and 0.02 to 69 hens per dol­lar spent. How­ever, since this is just one part of one of many mod­els that ACE pro­duces ev­ery year, it con­tains lit­tle de­tail. For ex­am­ple, with the ex­cep­tion of few very big com­mit­ments, it es­ti­mates the num­ber of an­i­mals af­fected by mul­ti­ply­ing the num­ber of com­mit­ments by the av­er­age num­ber of an­i­mals af­fected per com­mit­ment per year (which is 1,700 to 4.3 mil­lion for cage-free com­mit­ments and 100,000 to 7.8 mil­lion for broiler com­mit­ments). ACE uses the same av­er­ages for all char­i­ties. This re­sults in very wide con­fi­dence in­ter­vals which could be made more nar­row by a more de­tailed in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Note that cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mates are only a small part of ACE’s work. For ex­am­ple, it’s just one of seven crite­ria that ACE uses to eval­u­ate char­i­ties.

Ap­pendix 4: Why I chose to es­ti­mate the cost-effec­tive­ness for all char­i­ties, all coun­tries, and all years?

Some of the es­ti­mates I re­viewed in the pre­vi­ous ap­pendix make cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mates for one char­ity and one year. I de­cided to in­clude all the years, all the char­i­ties, and all the coun­tries in my es­ti­mate be­cause oth­er­wise, the re­sult could be mis­lead­ing. In this ap­pendix, I ex­plain why. Note that I’m un­cer­tain if it was the right de­ci­sion.

Why for all coun­tries and all char­i­ties?

  • Vic­to­ries in one coun­try can make vic­to­ries in other coun­tries eas­ier. For ex­am­ple, Bol­lard (2017a) claims that U.S. cage-free cam­paigns were suc­cess­ful partly be­cause they lev­er­aged U.K. progress where ac­tivists won a key com­mit­ment from McDon­ald’s. If, hy­po­thet­i­cally, win­ning that one key com­mit­ment in the U.K. was very ex­pen­sive, then ex­clud­ing its cost from the U.S. cage-free cam­paigns costs could lead to a mis­lead­ing re­sult. Similarly, the U.S. progress can now be lev­er­aged by try­ing to get the same com­pa­nies to go cage-free in other coun­tries like Mex­ico. Fur­ther­more, progress in the U.S. and the U.K. makes the cage-free ask seem much more le­gi­t­i­mate in many other coun­tries.

  • Some of the most im­por­tant com­mit­ments are global. For ex­am­ple, in 2018, Mar­riott In­ter­na­tional has made a global cage-free com­mit­ment fol­low­ing an ag­gres­sive pub­lic cam­paign by 59 ma­jor an­i­mal pro­tec­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions from many differ­ent coun­tries. It would be very com­pli­cated to de­ter­mine how much efforts in one coun­try or by one char­ity in­fluenced such com­mit­ments.

  • Differ­ent char­i­ties can play differ­ent roles, which makes it difficult to es­ti­mate the im­pact of any one char­ity. One char­ity could do un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions, an­other could re­search the best asks, an­other could se­cure com­mit­ments, and all of these char­i­ties might be nec­es­sary for the suc­cess.[36] For ex­am­ple, CIWF’s work on Eg­gTrack and Chick­enTrack is valuable only be­cause other char­i­ties push these com­pa­nies to make com­mit­ments and can use the in­for­ma­tion in these re­ports to see if re­in­force­ment cam­paigns are needed.

Why since for all years 2005?

If, for ex­am­ple, I would only es­ti­mate cost-effec­tive­ness of cage-free com­mit­ments dur­ing 2016, when many com­pa­nies com­mit­ted to go­ing cage-free, I would be at the risk of ex­clud­ing much of the costs that were needed to pre­pare for these vic­to­ries: set­ting up char­i­ties, do­ing un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and try­ing to se­cure some ini­tial key com­mit­ments. The re­sult­ing cost-effec­tive­ness es­ti­mate would be too high, and may not be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of cost-effec­tive­ness we should ex­pect in the fu­ture cam­paigns. For ex­am­ple, once we tran­si­tion to a differ­ent ask (e.g., to im­prove farmed fish welfare), the costly work of se­cur­ing key com­mit­ments has to be done again.

Any choice of year where to be­gin will be ar­bi­trary.[37] I choose the year 2005 be­cause ac­cord­ing to Bol­lard (2017a) that is when “farm an­i­mals be­came a big­ger fo­cus for an­i­mal ad­vo­cates” and some cage-free cam­paigns be­gan. Fur­ther­more, ac­cord­ing to Chicken Track, 2005 was also the year of first cor­po­rate cage-free pledges.[38] Nev­er­the­less, I be­lieve that choos­ing a date that is as far back as 2005 is a con­ser­va­tive choice.


An­dreyeva, T., Long, M. W., & Brownell, K. D. (2010). The im­pact of food prices on con­sump­tion: a sys­tem­atic re­view of re­search on the price elas­tic­ity of de­mand for food. Amer­i­can jour­nal of pub­lic health, 100(2), 216-222.

An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors. (2017a). When Will There Be Cost-com­pet­i­tive Cul­tured An­i­mal Prod­ucts?

An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors. (2017b). Re­sponse To A Re­cent Cri­tique Of Our Research

An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors. (2018a). HSUS Farm An­i­mal Pro­tec­tion Campaign

An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors. (2018b). Car­bon And Water Foot­prints Of Diet Choices

Bol­lard, L. (2016). Ini­tial Grants to Sup­port Cor­po­rate Cage-Free Re­forms.

Bol­lard, L. (2017a). Why Are the US Cor­po­rate Cage-Free Cam­paigns Suc­ceed­ing?

Bol­lard, L. (2017b). Why This Could Be the Year of the Broiler Chicken

Bol­lard, L. (2018). How Can You Do The Most Good for An­i­mals?

Burns, B. (2015). “An opi­ate to the con­science”: welfarism as a step to an­i­mal liber­a­tion?

Capriati, M. (2018). Founders Pledge Cause Area Re­port—An­i­mal Welfare.

Cle­ments, M. (2016). The 5 largest poul­try, egg pro­duc­ers in Europe

Cor­bett, J. (2018). What is the fu­ture of colony egg pro­duc­tion in the UK?

Co­tra, A. (2017). How Will Hen Welfare Be Im­pacted by the Tran­si­tion to Cage-Free Hous­ing? Note: the date and au­thor are not men­tioned in the re­port, but it is men­tioned in a blog post an­nounc­ing the re­port.

Dick­ens, M. (2016). A Com­plete Quan­ti­ta­tive Model for Cause Selection

Elanco An­i­mal Health. (2016). The sus­tain­abil­ity im­pacts of slow-grow­ing broiler pro­duc­tion in

the US.

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Health and Food Safety. (2016). Use of slaugh­ter­house data to mon­i­tor welfare of broilers on farm

Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral Devel­op­ment. (2019). EU Mar­ket Si­tu­a­tion for Eggs. Com­mit­tee for the Com­mon Or­gani­sa­tion of the Agri­cul­tural Mar­kets 20 June 2019

Graber, R., Kel­ler, J. (2018). In­fo­graphic: GAP broiler stan­dard commitments

King, D. (2019). To meet cage-free pledges, in­dus­try will need to grow 3 times faster

OpenPhil (The Open Philan­thropy Pro­ject). (2016). The Hu­mane League — Cor­po­rate Cage-Free Campaigns

PETA. (2017). Why We Op­pose Cal­ifor­nia’s Farmed-An­i­mal Ini­ti­a­tive and You Should, Too

Sarek, K. (2019). 35 In­de­pen­dent Pie­ces of Ev­i­dence for Why New Cor­po­rate Cam­paigns Might (or Might Not) Work

Sen­tience In­sti­tute. (2018). Sum­mary of Ev­i­dence for Foun­da­tional Ques­tions in Effec­tive An­i­mal Advocacy

Sethu, H. (2018). How rank­ing of ad­vo­cacy strate­gies can mislead

Shields, S., Shapiro, P., & Rowan, A. (2017). A decade of progress to­ward end­ing the in­ten­sive con­fine­ment of farm an­i­mals in the United States. An­i­mals, 7(5), 40.

Šimčikas, S. (2019). Will com­pa­nies meet their an­i­mal welfare com­mit­ments?

Steven­son, P. (2012). Euro­pean Union leg­is­la­tion on the welfare of farm animals

Thorn­ton, G. (2016). Top 10 US chicken pro­duc­ers grow in new directions

Wat­son, E. (2016). The US egg mar­ket is re­cov­er­ing well, but will avian flu have a longer-term im­pact on in­dus­trial egg use?

Wind­horst, H. W. (2017). Hous­ing sys­tems in lay­ing hen hus­bandry – sec­ond part.

Wrenn, C. L., & John­son, R. (2013). A cri­tique of sin­gle-is­sue cam­paign­ing and the im­por­tance of com­pre­hen­sive abo­li­tion­ist ve­gan ad­vo­cacy. Food, Cul­ture & So­ciety, 16(4), 651-668.

Xin, H., Gates, R. S., Green, A. R., Mit­loehner, F. M., Moore, P. A., & Wathes, C. M. (2011). En­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts and sus­tain­abil­ity of egg pro­duc­tion sys­tems. Poul­try Science, 90(1), 263-277.


This ar­ti­cle is a pro­ject of Re­think Pri­ori­ties. If you like our work, please con­sider sub­scribing to our newslet­ter. You can see all our work to date here.

The ar­ti­cle was writ­ten by Saulius Šimčikas. Thanks to Jamie Spur­geon, Mar­cus A. Davis, Kieran Greig, and Lewis Bol­lard for re­view­ing parts of this post and mak­ing valuable com­ments. Also, thank you to so many an­i­mal ad­vo­cates who pa­tiently an­swered all my ques­tions when I was do­ing this re­search for this ar­ti­cle.

Rethink Priorities Logo


  1. Cage-free cam­paigns re­quest to keep egg-lay­ing hens in cage-free sys­tems rather than in bat­tery cages or en­riched cages. Cage-free sys­tems in­clude barns, aviaries, or­ganic, and free-range sys­tems. A com­par­i­son be­tween differ­ent sys­tems can be seen here. The effect of the tran­si­tion to cage-free hous­ing on hen welfare is an­a­lyzed in de­tail in Co­tra (2017). ↩︎

  2. The changes for broilers that an­i­mal ad­vo­cates ask for can be seen here. Bol­lard (2017b) ex­plains a bit more about what these changes mean for broilers. ↩︎

  3. Ex­pla­na­tion of some of the vari­ables in the table:

    • Chick­ens cov­ered by com­mit­ments—how many hens com­pa­nies that made cage-free pledges use, and how many broilers com­pa­nies that made broiler com­mit­ments use

    • Fol­low-through rate—what per­centage of chick­ens cov­ered by com­mit­ments will ac­tu­ally be af­fected.

    • Mean years of im­pact—A pre­dicted num­ber of years com­mit­ments have an effect, as­sum­ing they will be fol­lowed through

    In case the table is still un­clear, here is a sum­mary of the es­ti­mate in text form: I first es­ti­mate that 330–1,300 mil­lion broilers and 240–390 mil­lion hens should be af­fected by cor­po­rate cage-free and broiler com­mit­ments ev­ery year these poli­cies have an effect, ex­clud­ing es­ti­mated 79–180 mil­lion hens that are cov­ered by com­mit­ments but would’ve been cage-free with­out the cam­paigns. How­ever, I think that only 48%–85% of these hens, and 1–94% of broilers will be ac­tu­ally af­fected by these com­mit­ments, be­cause not all com­pa­nies will fol­low through. It’s very un­clear for how long these poli­cies will have an effect. I briefly overview all the ways com­mit­ments could stop be­ing rele­vant (in­clud­ing leg­is­la­tive change, cul­tured eggs and chicken, bankrupt­cies, back­slide due to eco­nomic in­cen­tives) and guess that on av­er­age, these com­mit­ments will have an effect for 4 to 36 years. This value is a bit higher due to the fact that the pro­duc­tion of eggs and chicken is ex­pected to grow. I then es­ti­mate that be­tween 2005 and 2018, the to­tal spend­ing re­lated to cage-free and broiler welfare cor­po­rate cam­paigns was $54–$120 mil­lion, of which about $16–$42 mil­lion was spent on broiler cam­paigns. Put­ting it all to­gether, per ev­ery dol­lar spent on cage-free and broiler cam­paigns, 10–280 chick­ens will be af­fected. Com­bined, they will live 9.6 to 120 years, ig­nor­ing that lifes­pans of broilers will in­crease if slower-grow­ing breeds will be used, and ex­clud­ing the pul­let phase of hen lives when they are in hatcheries where liv­ing con­di­tions are not di­rectly af­fected by cage-free promises. ↩︎

  4. This in­cludes global cage-free com­mit­ments that may in­clude the U.S., which causes some dou­ble-count­ing. This is taken into ac­count by slightly de­creas­ing the num­ber of hens cov­ered by global com­mit­ments. ↩︎

  5. For ex­am­ple, UK gro­cer Tesco claims to sell 1.4 billion eggs each year in about 3,500 stores. That means that on av­er­age, a Tesco store sells about 400,000 eggs each year. Ice­land is an­other UK gro­cer with about 850 stores. As­sum­ing that Ice­land also sells about 400,000 eggs per store per year, we can es­ti­mate that Ice­land sells about 340 mil­lion eggs. One hen lays about 270 eggs per year, so we can es­ti­mate that Ice­land’s cage-free com­mit­ment will af­fect about 1.26 mil­lion hens per year. This is ap­prox­i­mate be­cause it’s pos­si­ble that Ice­land sells more (or less) eggs per store per year. In some other cases, es­ti­mates are even more ap­prox­i­mate. For ex­am­ple, the num­ber of hens used by a man­u­fac­turer Pep­siCo was ex­trap­o­lated from the num­ber of hens used by Gen­eral Mills US (an­other man­u­fac­turer), us­ing rev­enue figures. Since these man­u­fac­tur­ers pro­duce differ­ent prod­ucts, it’s pos­si­ble that the es­ti­mate is very in­ac­cu­rate. ↩︎

  6. Note that com­pa­nies that only use one part of a chicken may have less lev­er­age over the pro­duc­ers (rel­a­tive to the num­ber of chick­ens that should be af­fected) than com­pa­nies that buy all parts of chick­ens from them. ↩︎

  7. Num­bers of lo­ca­tions of restau­rants that made broiler welfare com­mit­ments in Europe:

    • ASK Ital­ian: 112 in the UK,

    • Coco di Mama: 22 in London

    • Zizzi: 140 in the UK and Ireland

    • Pret A Manger: 360 in the U.K, less than 50 in France in 2017

    • Prezzo: 208 in the UK and Ireland

    • Car­luc­cio’s: 77 in the UK

    • Par­adiset: 3 stores in Sweden

    • Kalf & Hansen: 3 in Sweden

    • Icha Icha: 3 in Sweden

    • Bas­tard Burg­ers: 21 in Swe­den, an­other 6 planned

  8. Based on Rabobank World Poul­try Map 2018, I es­ti­mated that in 2017, the U.S. con­sumed 48 kg of poul­try per cap­ita, while the EU con­sumed 22 kg, more than two times less. How­ever, the con­sump­tion differs sub­stan­tially by coun­try within the EU. For ex­am­ple, AHDB (2018) claims that the UK con­sumed 37.3 kg of poul­try per cap­ita in 2016. Note that poul­try in­cludes turkey and ducks, not just broilers, al­though most of the poul­try con­sump­tion in the U.S. and the EU seems to be broilers. ↩︎

  9. Ac­cord­ing to Chick­enTrack, their com­mit­ment ap­plies to the whole of Europe, but the com­mit­ment it­self seems to only talk about the U.K. Marks & Spencer has 1035 stores in the U.K. and 428 in­ter­na­tion­ally. ↩︎

  10. This doesn’t in­clude eggs that are ex­ported from Cal­ifor­nia, Wash­ing­ton state, Mas­sachusetts and Ore­gon. Ac­cord­ing to the Cal­ifor­nia’s Depart­ment of Food and Agri­cul­ture, the state ex­ported only $4 mil­lion worth of eggs in 2017, which should af­fect less than a mil­lion hens (per­haps much less). Even if ex­ports in other states that have cage-free laws are sig­nifi­cant, I’d ex­pect them to de­crease af­ter the law comes into force, as fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives would prob­a­bly cause pro­duc­ers in these states to move to other states with no cage-free law, or cater to a cage-free de­mand that would have been met by other pro­duc­ers any­way. How­ever, to ac­count for the pos­si­bil­ity that this rea­son­ing is in­cor­rect, the up­per bound of my sub­jec­tive 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val of the num­ber of hens that would be cage-free with­out cor­po­rate cam­paigns is a lit­tle bit higher. ↩︎

  11. The big Ger­man gro­cers that made global cage-free com­mit­ments are:

    • Rewe: ac­cord­ing to to their web­site, in 2016, REWE Group op­er­ated 14,728 stores in 19 Euro­pean coun­tries, of which 10,178 stores were in Ger­many.

    • Lidl op­er­ates in 27 Euro­pean coun­tries, U.S., Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong. Ac­cord­ing to Wikipe­dia, around 3,300 of over 10,000 Lidl stores are in Ger­many.

    • Aldi Süd: ac­cord­ing to Wikipe­dia, Aldi Süd op­er­ates about 6,200 stores, of which 1,886 are in Ger­many, 1,873 in the U.S., 775 in the UK, 527 in Aus­tralia, and 1,110 in other Euro­pean coun­tries.

    • Kau­fland: ac­cord­ing to Wikipe­dia, Kau­fland op­er­ates in Ger­many (650 out of 1,200 stores), the Czech Repub­lic, Slo­vakia, Poland, Ro­ma­nia, Bul­garia and Croatia

  12. Ac­cord­ing to Sethu (2014), in 2013, there were 52.2 mil­lion broiler breed­ers al­ive dur­ing any given month. Ac­cord­ing to a USDA fact sheet, in 2014, the U.S. poul­try in­dus­try pro­duced 8.54 billion broilers. As­sum­ing that a similar num­ber of broilers was slaugh­tered in both years, we can es­ti­mate that for ev­ery 0.33 to 1.3 billion broilers slaugh­tered there are 2 to 8 mil­lion broiler breed­ers al­ive dur­ing any given month. ↩︎

  13. Note that broiler breed­ers might be the worst kept an­i­mals in the farm­ing in­dus­try. This is very spec­u­la­tive, but it’s pos­si­ble that slower grow­ing breeds will help them the most be­cause they will have to be starved less to main­tain an ac­cept­able weight. If this is true, an­i­mal or­ga­ni­za­tions could con­sider talk­ing about broiler breed­ers more when cam­paign­ing for the broiler ask be­cause their con­di­tions might con­cern the pub­lic who may not even know about the hor­rible con­di­tions in which they are raised. Note that broiler breed­ers are not men­tioned in the broiler ask, so the use of the higher welfare (and prob­a­bly slower grow­ing) breeds might be the only re­quire­ment of the ask that af­fects them. ↩︎

  14. For ex­am­ple, use bal­lot ini­ti­a­tives to pass laws like Cal­ifor­nia’s Propo­si­tion 12, de­spite their high costs. If such mea­sures are not taken, com­pa­nies could not only ig­nore their cur­rent com­mit­ments, but it could threaten the le­gi­t­i­macy of all fu­ture cor­po­rate an­i­mal welfare com­mit­ments as ev­ery­one would see such com­mit­ments as mean­ingless. ↩︎

  15. As­sum­ing that most of this growth is due to cor­po­rate cam­paigns, nearly 50 mil­lion hens were already af­fected, which is about 27% of the 160-210 mil­lion hens that are cov­ered by U.S. cage-free com­mit­ments. How­ever, some of this growth was prob­a­bly due to leg­is­la­tion. ↩︎

  16. I think that the 20% low is un­rea­son­able be­cause 19.8% lay­ers are already cage-free and the per­centage should rise due to Cal­ifor­nia’s Propo­si­tion 12 and the com­mit­ments. I think that the 100% high is also not very re­al­is­tic be­cause King (2019) claims that to meet cage-free pledges in the U.S., the cage-free pro­duc­tion will need to grow three times faster, but even if that hap­pen, only about 70% of U.S. hens would be cage-free. ↩︎

  17. Track­ing the progress to­wards broiler com­mit­ments is planned in the fu­ture though. See Chick­enTrack. ↩︎

  18. Other ap­proaches to deal­ing with the un­cer­tainty of how many years com­mit­ments will have an effect in­clude:

    • CIWF USA’s Cost Effec­tive­ness Es­ti­mate State­ment of Trans­parency cites Bol­lard (2016) and ACE and also as­sumes that changes will have an effect for five years af­ter a com­mit­ment is im­ple­mented. It also adds some ad­di­tional years of im­pact based on the num­ber of years be­tween mak­ing the com­mit­ment and the dead­line.

    • Dick­ens (2016) uses a 90% con­fi­dence in­ter­val of 5-10 years and also dis­cusses us­ing a con­fi­dence in­ter­val of 3-10 years. It also cites Bol­lard (2016) as the source.

    • Capriati (2018) es­ti­mate does not have a di­rect equiv­a­lent to years of im­pact ex­pected. In­stead, it es­ti­mates the num­ber of years THL moves the policy for­ward by. It as­signs the value to this vari­able based on how im­por­tant was THL’s role in bring­ing poli­cies about. By an­a­lyz­ing six ran­domly se­lected cam­paigns, it con­cludes that on av­er­age THL’s cage-free and broiler cam­paigns moved poli­cies for­ward by one year, and chick cul­ling cam­paign brought policy for­ward by six months.

    Note that the ques­tion is not unique to an­i­mal welfare com­mit­ments. It’s pos­si­ble that there are more thought-out method­olo­gies of es­ti­mat­ing how long cor­po­rate com­mit­ments of other kinds have an effect. How­ever, I haven’t seen any. ↩︎

  19. See CIWF USA’s Cost Effec­tive­ness Es­ti­mate State­ment of Trans­parency for more rea­son­ing along these lines. ↩︎

  20. Another source says that it will cost U.S. com­pa­nies more than $4 billion. Ac­cord­ing to United Egg Pro­duc­ers, it will cost more than $10 billion to go cage-free. Note that United Egg Pro­duc­ers is an egg in­ter­est group so they may be in­cen­tivized to over­es­ti­mate this figure. ↩︎

  21. Around $5.8 mil­lion in 2017, $9.4 mil­lion in 2016, $8.6 mil­lion in 2015, $9.4 mil­lion in 2014, $12.9 mil­lion in 2013, and $19.2 mil­lion in 2013. ↩︎

  22. Also note that in 2016, HSUS re­ceived two grants for cor­po­rate out­reach from OpenPhil, to­tal­ling at $1.5 mil­lion. ↩︎

  23. Bol­lard (2018) as­sumed that in 2017 HSUS to­tal spend­ing re­lated to farm an­i­mals was $15 mil­lion (⅛ of their bud­get), even though FAPC’s bud­get in 2017 was only $4 mil­lion (in­clud­ing ac­tivi­ties un­re­lated to cor­po­rate cam­paigns, like in­sti­tu­tional meat re­duc­tion pro­gram). The es­ti­mate by Lewis is so much big­ger be­cause it in­cludes ad­min and fundrais­ing costs. Similarly, in 2016 re­view, ACE pointed out that they “have very lit­tle sense how much HSUS spends on farmed an­i­mal is­sues out­side the FAPC’s bud­get.” ↩︎

  24. $160,036 in 2013, $322,677 in 2014, $211,659 in 2015, and $465,226 in 2016. ↩︎

  25. An­i­mal Equal­ity’s spend­ing on in­ves­ti­ga­tions was about $920,000 in 2018, $998,000 in 2017, $820,000 in 2016, $230,969 in 2015, and $104,610 in 2013. I guessed that in 2014 they spent $200,000. ↩︎

  26. I think so be­cause An­i­mal Equal­ity spent rel­a­tively lit­tle money on cor­po­rate out­reach and in­ves­ti­ga­tions in 2013, and their bud­get was small in prior years. Ac­cord­ing to the 2014 ACE re­view, “they have op­er­ated on a very limited bud­get in past years (though this in­creased sub­stan­tially in the two last years to $300,000/​year)”. ↩︎

  27. I used CPI In­fla­tion Calcu­la­tor from the U.S. Depart­ment of Labour web­site to com­pare the value of the U.S. dol­lar in Jan­uary of each year to the value of the U.S. dol­lar in Jan­uary 2019. Note that some of the spend­ing was not in U.S. dol­lars, so this is only par­tially ac­cu­rate. ↩︎

  28. Bol­lard (2016) has some more de­tails about that. It claims that $2.5 mil­lion was spent in the last few years, which sug­gests that not much money was spent be­fore. ↩︎

  29. To ex­plain why, imag­ine a cost-profit anal­y­sis of sel­l­ing ve­gan cakes. When calcu­lat­ing the to­tal cost, you could in­clude the costs of:

    • sel­l­ing cakes,

    • pro­duc­ing cakes,

    • cre­at­ing a recipe,

    • buy­ing equip­ment to make cakes,

    • ac­quiring skills needed to make cakes,

    • cre­at­ing a de­mand for cakes (e.g., ad­ver­tis­ing).

    Which costs to in­clude is de­ter­mined by where you are in the pro­cess. If you already have a lot of cakes made, and you are think­ing whether to throw them away or to set up a mar­ket stall and spend your day sel­l­ing them, it would be a mis­take to take the cost of pro­duc­ing those cakes into a con­sid­er­a­tion, at least from the point of view of max­i­miz­ing the profit. On the other hand, if you don’t have the skills or equip­ment to make cakes, it would be a mis­take to ex­clude these costs from your cost-profit anal­y­sis. ↩︎

  30. For ex­am­ple, if the size of a com­mit­ment was es­ti­mated us­ing the num­ber of eggs used by a com­pany, it was di­vided by the av­er­age num­ber of eggs hens lay per year (~270), rather than per life­time. That means that we can es­ti­mate the num­ber of hen-years af­fected by sim­ply mul­ti­ply­ing the num­ber of hens af­fected per year by Mean Years of Im­pact. ↩︎

  31. I am very un­cer­tain about how sig­nifi­cant this effect is. Note that the is­sue was known when de­cid­ing on the ask and it was de­cided that it’s worth mak­ing the trade-off. Elanco An­i­mal Health (2016) claims that the grow out time for slower grow­ing breeds is 58 days, ver­sus 44 days for con­ven­tional breeds. Fur­ther­more, prime meat (breasts, wings, thighs, and legs) yield for slower grow­ing breeds is 48%, ver­sus 55% for con­ven­tional breeds. It fol­lows that if slower grow­ing breeds were adopted, 51% more broilers would need to be al­ive at any point in time to pro­duce the same amount of prime meat. How­ever, I haven’t found the source for the claims by Elanco An­i­mal Health (2016), and I am not sure how much to trust them. It’s pos­si­ble Elanco was funded by the an­i­mal in­dus­try to write the re­port. An older Poul­try World study in­di­cates that slow- and fast-grow­ing broilers are slaugh­tered at near the same weight and yield very similar pro­por­tions of prime meat. Over­all, the an­swer prob­a­bly de­pends a lot on which higher-welfare breeds will be used. That is not cur­rently known in the U.S. be­cause U.S. com­pa­nies are com­mit­ting to use GAP-ap­proved breeds, but GAP has not yet ap­proved breeds, as they are wait­ing for the re­sults of a study. ↩︎

  32. For ex­am­ple, Lusk (2018) an­a­lyzed the mar­ket im­pacts of switch­ing to slower grow­ing broiler breeds. It con­cluded that “un­der the most likely sce­nario, we calcu­late that con­vert­ing to slower growth breeds would in­crease re­tail chicken prices by 1.17% and re­duce the amount of re­tail chicken sold by 0.91%, re­sult­ing in losses in pro­ducer prof­its of $3.5 billion/​year.” It also claims that pro­duc­tion costs would in­crease by about 14%. Ac­cord­ing to Elanco An­i­mal Health (2016), us­ing slower grow­ing breeds would in­crease the mar­ket price per bird by a whop­ping 49%. I’m un­sure of why these two sources provide such differ­ent num­bers. Note that if the costs of com­ply­ing with other re­quire­ments in the broiler ask were in­cluded (re­gard­ing stock­ing den­sity, light­ing, air qual­ity, etc.), pro­duc­tion costs would prob­a­bly in­crease more. There is dis­agree­ment about how much cage-free re­forms will in­crease the price of eggs. The effects that food prices have on chicken and egg con­sump­tion are an­a­lyzed in An­dreyeva et al. (2010). Note that re­duc­tion in an­i­mal product prices could help to es­tab­lish plant-based al­ter­na­tives, cul­tured an­i­mal prod­ucts, and other in­no­va­tions could fur­ther de­crease an­i­mal product con­sump­tion in the longer term. ↩︎

  33. The source for the chart is All of Our World in Data which used 2017 FAO data. ↩︎

  34. For ex­am­ple, pro­duc­ers could be re­luc­tant to re­place hous­ing sys­tems if they an­ti­ci­pate that soon they will have to be aban­doned due to com­pe­ti­tion from cul­tured meat and eggs. ↩︎

  35. Achiev­ing the com­mit­ment seems to have re­quired lit­tle re­sources from an­i­mal welfare or­ga­ni­za­tions, so it would have in­creased the es­ti­mated cost-effec­tive­ness. The com­mit­ment is dis­cussed in more depth Capriati (2018). Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, it could spare suffer­ing for 260 mil­lion chicks each year, but the suffer­ing for each chick is brief, and there is only a 30% prob­a­bil­ity that United Egg Pro­duc­ers will fol­low through this com­mit­ment. ↩︎

  36. ACE and Capriati (2018) es­ti­mate the im­pact of one char­ity that played a role in se­cur­ing com­mit­ments to­gether with other or­ga­ni­za­tions by as­sign­ing a pro­por­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity. But this is very sub­jec­tive. It could also lead to mis­lead­ing con­clu­sions. Imag­ine a hy­po­thet­i­cal sce­nario where two char­i­ties are needed: char­ity A that se­cures cor­po­rate com­mit­ments to use higher welfare broiler breeds, and char­ity B that de­vel­ops higher welfare breeds that could be used. We de­cide that each of these char­i­ties should get half of the credit for the change that we want to hap­pen, and es­ti­mate that char­ity A will help many more an­i­mals in ex­pec­ta­tion per dol­lar spent. It would be a mis­take to use this in­for­ma­tion to con­clude that we should put all the fund­ing into char­ity A se­cur­ing com­mit­ments be­cause its work may be use­less if char­ity B does not suc­ceed in de­vel­op­ing broiler breeds. Note that this sce­nario is purely hy­po­thet­i­cal, as cur­rently rel­a­tively lit­tle re­sources are al­lo­cated to the re­search of the best asks. ↩︎

  37. It’s un­clear which choice of the start­ing year is the best. It could be ar­gued that even cam­paigns against an­i­mal ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in the U.S. in the 1970s should be in­cluded in the es­ti­mate be­cause they helped to make the U.S. so­ciety more con­cerned about an­i­mal welfare, which makes it eas­ier to achieve cor­po­rate com­mit­ments to­day. In­clud­ing costs of ac­tivi­ties that cre­ated such pub­lic con­cern is not needed when es­ti­mat­ing the effec­tive­ness of the U.S. cage-free and broiler cam­paigns, be­cause these costs are already in the past and won’t need to be ex­pended again when tran­si­tion­ing to new asks. How­ever, they may be some­what rele­vant when con­sid­er­ing the costs of ex­pand­ing to other coun­tries where the pub­lic is not yet con­cerned about an­i­mals. ↩︎

  38. Note that in 2005 there was already a lot of progress in some coun­tries. For ex­am­ple, the EU passed a law phas­ing out the use of bar­ren bat­tery cages in 1999 and banned the con­struc­tion of new ges­ta­tion crates in 2003. Progress in the U.S. is sum­ma­rized by Shields et al. (2017). It in­cludes a ges­ta­tion crate ban in Florida (2002) and var­i­ous cam­paigns against other cruel prac­tices (e.g., an­i­mal ex­per­i­men­ta­tion) that prob­a­bly made the con­cern for an­i­mal welfare more com­mon. ↩︎