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Carl Icahn has dropped a proxy fight focused on pig welfare at U.S. supermarket giant Kroger. The activist investor recently lost a similar contest against McDonald’s.
Icahn said in a Monday letter to both Kroger and McDonald’s shareholders that the performance of the two companies has made it hard for other investors to back his push for better treatment of pigs. Icahn owns just 100 Kroger shares and 200 of McDonald’s stock.
“I congratulate the McDonald’s team on their victory in this proxy engagement and, after much contemplation, given the company’s financial position, I believe the same outcome will result at Kroger,” said Icahn in the letter announcing the end of the proxy battle with Kroger.
Icahn has been arguing against the use of gestation crates at both Kroger and McDonald’s but the two companies recently had good financial performance, which usually translates into low support for change.
Last month, the activist lost a bid for two board seats at McDonald’s after pressing the fast-food titan to only source pork from companies that do not confine pregnant pigs in small crates. McDonald’s said it was working on ending the practice but rejected a swift move to 100% ‘crate-free’ pork, citing supply chain constraints and high costs.
Icahn made his two nominations for Kroger’s board in late March, citing the U.S. grocer’s “inaction towards creating meaningful animal welfare policies” and a huge pay disparity between average workers and executives. Kroger’s dismissed the dissident candidates as “not additive or qualified” for its board.
Despite the step back, Icahn said his campaign has had some effects on animal welfare in the industry and pointed out several developments since he launched his McDonald’s campaign in February. These include an accelerated schedule by Cheesecake Factory to use only cage-free eggs and a promise by Conagra Brands to create a glidepath for reaching 100% crate-free pork, the letter reads.
Shares in Kroger are up 16% so far this year while those of McDonald’s have lost 7%.