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 same.
“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.
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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â€¢ Smithfield Foods