Get it up, stand up! Stand up for sow rights! In a move that will have a far reaching impact to the pork producing industry, McDonald’s Corporation (NYSE:MCD) announced that it will require its U.S. pork suppliers to outline their plans to phase out the use of sow gestation stalls.
In recent years, the advocacy for humane treatment of farm animals has sought to raise awareness of the problems caused by the use of restrictive crates in the meat and poultry industry.
Gestation crates are a 7 ft by 2 ft metal enclosure used in intensive pig farming, in which a female breeding pig (sow) may be confined during pregnancy, and in effect for most of her adult life. As the sows grow larger, they no longer fit in the crates and unable to turn around which advocacy groups suggest leads to health distress.
In a joint statement with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), McDonalds’s announced its intention to get out of the business of gestation crates for breeding sows in the United States. McDonald’s declared that it “wants to see the end of sow confinement in gestation stalls in our U.S. supply chain” and further notes that “there are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows.”
This announcement comes on the heels of recommitted pledge by Smithfield Foods (NYSE:SFD), the largest pork producer in the world, stating the company will phase out restrictive crates in its company-owned operations by 2017.
Earlier this month, Hormel Foods (NYSE:HRL) announced in a statement, “All Hormel Foods-owned farms will be 100% group sow housing before 2018.” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS said in a statement,“The HSUS has been a long-time advocate for ending the use of gestation crates, and McDonald’s announcement is important and promising,”
The announcement should have a far reaching impact on U.S. pork producing industry. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, “McDonald’s buys just 1 percent of the total pork produced in the country, but its influence is much larger. When the company required its egg suppliers to increase the amount of cage space devoted to their hens in 1999, for example, other fast-food chains followed suit and soon the vast majority of egg producers had given their chickens more space”.