It's fair to say the earliest efforts of animal rights groups like PETA were not taken too seriously by livestock producers and the commodity groups that represent them. But all that has changed.
Groups like PETA gained leverage by taking their cause to consumers. They also were effective in pressing major restaurant chains into demanding more strident animal welfare standards from their suppliers.
One by one, the various links in the food chain have responded, including groups representing thousands of the nation's retailers and restaurants.
The new animal husbandry standards are being introduced by two food trade associations and are aimed at suppliers of retail meat and poultry.
The Food Marketing Institute and the National Council of Chain Restaurants adopted standards developed by various commodity groups. Those groups include the dairy industry's quality assurance center, the National Pork Promotion and Research Board, and United Egg Producers.
In addition, the trade groups say they are compiling audit procedures to ensure food supplies for their members meet the new husbandry standards.
The new standards are part of an industry-wide effort to deflect criticism from animal rights groups, like PETA. McDonald's Burger King, Wendy's and Applebee's are among the retail giants which have adopted their own standards after being pressured by PETA. McDonald's this week applauded the trade groups for adopting the standards, but said it would not change its own criterion.
A progress report by the trade groups, which represent thousands of food suppliers, grocery stores and restaurants, touted industry efforts to establish uniform animal husbandry standards. The report acknowledged that from farm gate to dinner plate, it was in the industry's best interest to ensure the daily health and well-being of animals used in food production.