McDonald's moves toward elimination of sow gestation stalls

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

OAK BROOK, IL. Feb. 13 - McDonald's Corporation announced that it will require its U.S. pork suppliers to outline their plans to phase out the use of sow gestation stalls, a move already underway with some of the nation's largest suppliers and one supported by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

 “McDonald's believes gestation stalls are not a sustainable production system for the future. There are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows,” said Dan Gorsky, senior vice president of McDonald's North America Supply Chain Management, in a press release. “McDonald's wants to see the end of sow confinement in gestation stalls in our supply chain. We are beginning an assessment with our U.S. suppliers to determine how to build on the work already underway to reach that goal. In May, after receiving our suppliers' plans, we'll share results from the assessment and our next steps.”

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 The HSUS held a press conference for reporters this morning to herald the move. The group has been sending representatives to annual shareholder meetings for major meat processors and asking for changes in production practices. After an HSUS representative asked Jeff Ettinger, Hormel Foods president and chief executive officer, when Hormel would move away from sow gestation crates at their annual meeting, he said the company would stop using gestation-sow stalls completely by 2017.

 “The HSUS has been a long-time advocate for ending the use of gestation crates, and McDonald's announcement is important and promising,” said Wayne Pacelle, The HSUS' president and CEO. “All animals deserve humane treatment, including farm animals, and it's just wrong to immobilize animals for their whole lives in crates barely larger than their bodies.”

 McDonald's actions are backed by leading independent animal welfare experts, including renowned scientist Dr. Temple Grandin. “Moving from gestation stalls to better alternatives will improve the welfare of sows and I'm pleased to see McDonald's working with its suppliers toward that end. It takes a thorough plan to address the training of animal handlers, proper feeding systems, and the significant financial investment and logistics involved with such a big change. I'm optimistic about this announcement,” said Dr. Grandin.

 Gorsky added, “We are pleased to see a number of our U.S. suppliers adopting commerciallyviable alternatives. For example, Smithfield Foods and Cargill have made significant progress in this area. We applaud these, and future efforts.”

 The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said the decision by the McDonald's Corp. to study its suppliers' use of individual sow housing”is an opportunity for the pork industry to respond to its customers.”

 “Farmers and animal care experts know that various types of housing systems can provide for the well-being of pigs. After an extensive review of scientific literature, the American Veterinary Medical Association determined that both individual sow housing and group housing can provide for the well-being of sows.

 “Perhaps most importantly, today's announcement reflects the best process for meeting evolving consumer demands - through the market, not through government mandates. Pork industry customers have expressed a desire to see changes in how pigs are raised. Farmers are responding and modifying their practices accordingly. That process is effective, it is efficient and doesn't require an act of Congress,” emphasized NPPC.

 The HSUS recently teamed up with the United Egg Producers to seek federal legislation that would mandate the type of cages required for egg-laying hens. That legislation would not impact pork and beef producers, but some fear it would be the first step toward national standards for other types of livestock.




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