Smithfield ends use of gestation crates
The largest US
pork supplier, Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, has decided to end the use of
gestation crates at all its sow farms, replacing them with group housing pens
in the next ten years. Contract growers will be asked to do the
The decision was made in response to concerns about individual gestation crates voiced by customers like McDonald's and several supermarket chains.
"Working with our customers, who have made their views known on the issue of gestation stalls, we are pleased to be taking this precedent-setting step," said C. Larry Pope, CEO of Smithfield Foods.
"During our 70 years in business we have always been sensitive to the concerns and needs of our customers, and they have told us they feel group housing is a more animal-friendly form of sow housing.â€
The company's officials denied that pressure from activists had anything to do with their announcement.
Scientific studies, as well as Smithfield's own three-year review, indicated that gestation stalls and group housing are equally productive methods of sow housing.
Preliminary results of this study indicate that, with proper management, group housing arrangements are equally as good as gestation crates in providing proper care for pregnant sows.
Smithfield declined to indicate how much it would spend to convert its system at all 187 pig nurseries, but acknowledged that there would be a 'significant' cost involved.
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