WASHINGTON, D.C., June 9, 2014, – One of the largest pork producers in the United States is pledging a move from gestation crates to group sow housing citing a desire in the marketplace for housing alternatives.
Cargill Inc. has announced intentions to move completely to group housing for sows that produce hogs for pork. For its own facilities, Cargill said the move will be completed by the end of 2015, and contract hog farms will make the switch by the end of 2017.
Cargill Pork President Mick Luker said the switch is largely in response to calls from the marketplace to move away from traditional crates and an increasing interest in sow welfare.
“Over the past two years, many of our retail, food service, and food processing customers have made decisions about future sourcing of pork products from suppliers that use group housing for gestation sows,” Luker said. “Growing public interest in the welfare related to animals raised for food has been expressed to our customers and the pork industry.”
Cargill is hoping the conversion timetable will allow the company to support the “early adopter” customers that want their pork products from alternative sow housing. Luker said Cargill, like the rest of the pork industry, is still learning about the best housing options for sows, but he feels group housing is the right way to go despite the cost.
“While an industry change of this magnitude is challenging and costly, we believe it is the right thing to do for the long term future of pork production in the U.S., and our customers agree with us and support our decision,” Luker noted. “Nevertheless, we need to be mindful that many family farms involved with raising hogs have their life savings invested in their operations and it will require time and other resources if they choose to make a conversion to group housing.”
Cargill’s 2011 acquisition of an idled hog farm complex in the Texas Panhandle is allowing the company to achieve 100 percent group housing for its gestating sows. Over the past three years, Cargill has invested more than $60 million in the purchase and improvement of the 22,000-acre property near Dalhart, Texas, including the construction of sow barns containing group housing and conversion of existing sow housing from gestation crates.
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