You don’t have to take my word for it when I say that the cruelest practices on the farm are on the way out. You can plainly read it on the website homepage of a major pork buyer, a brand familiar around the world. Here are that company’s observations:
____________’s has long supported suppliers that choose to move away from sow gestation crates and tethers. Some recent examples of progress by our suppliers include the following:
Smithfield Foods – In 2007, Smithfield announced that it would phase out gestation stalls in the U.S. market over 10 years. It completed a three-year comparative study of sow housing, including on-site inspections of best practices and equipment in Europe, and concluded that group pens are just as good as individual gestation stalls in caring for sows. This intensive research resulted in a state-of-the-art system for group housing that offers animals the privacy of their own stall or the ability to wander with other sows in an open pen. The conversion process is currently underway at Smithfield company-owned farms.
Cargill Pork – Since 2005, Cargill Pork has decreased the use of tethers for housing gestating sows by more than 99%. The remaining usage of tethers will be phased out in the remainder of 2008. Approximately 40% of Cargill Pork’s sows are on farms that use group housing rather than individual housing for gestating sows. This includes a new farm that is using a "free access stall" system. This system allows animals to enter a stall for protection from aggression and to eat without competition from other sows, while also providing them the option of exiting the stall when they want to exercise and/or socialize. In the spirit of taking into account broader sustainability implications, the new Cargill Pork farm is also equipped for biogas utilization from the waste management system.
“Our own research has demonstrated that group pens are as good as individual gestation stalls in caring for pregnant sows, so when ___________’s and other customers told us they believe group housing to be more comfortable for the animals, we listened.”-C. Larry Pope, President and Chief Executive Officer, Smithfield Foods, Inc.
And the name of the company that put this on its homepage?
That’s right, McDonald’s.
Without vocal and determined actions of animal welfare advocates, we wouldn’t be reading things like the above.
There are plenty of other unmistakable signals that foretell the future. The egg industry’s own journals say that companies that manufacture battery cages to house laying hens have reported sharp drops in business. You see, forward-looking farmers got the message awhile back.
Just a few short years ago, the words “cage free” had resonance only among those closest to factory farming. Today, these two words are a battle-cry on college campuses and in institutional kitchens from coast-to-coast. They exemplify a growing trend among consumers who are increasingly concerned about where their food comes from. In other countries, they are the norm.