Wendy's International, the world's third-largest hamburger chain, said Thursday it would give preferential treatment to pork and chicken suppliers who improve animal welfare standards.
In a statement, Wendy's said 10 percent of its pork products come from hogs raised outside of gestation stalls. It is hoping to raise that figure to 20 percent by the end of 2008 and increase it over time.
Pork producers have been under growing pressure to eliminate the small stalls used to house pregnant sows in favor of keeping them in communal pens where they have more room to move around.
Wendy's also said it would give purchasing preference to chicken suppliers who explore and test so-called "controlled atmosphere stunning" (CAS) systems. Under the CAS method, chickens receive a mixture of gas and oxygen to render them unconscious before slaughtering.
Animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have encouraged restaurant chains to switch to CAS, a method that is already used in Europe.
Earlier this year, animal rights groups lauded burger chain Burger King Holdings for taking steps to use suppliers who do not confine their animals to crates or cages.