Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

McDonald's to Phase out Pork Suppliers That Use Pens Considered Cruel

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

McDonald's to Phase out Pork Suppliers That Use Pens Considered Cruel

Article excerpt

About 60 percent to 70 percent of the more than five million breeding sows in the United States are kept in crates. Animal rights advocates have singled out the practice as cruel.

McDonald's plans to begin working with its pork suppliers to phase out the use of so-called gestational crates, the tiny stalls in which sows are housed while pregnant.

Animal rights advocates have singled out the use of crates, also known as sow stalls, as cruel, and several U.S. states have moved to ban or restrict their use, not only in pork production, but also in the production of eggs and veal.

"McDonald's believes gestation stalls are not a sustainable production system for the future," Dan Gorsky, senior vice president for supply chain management for McDonald's in North America, said in a statement. "There are alternatives we think are better for the welfare of sows."

The sow stalls, which are a little more than 2 feet by 7 feet, or 60 centimeters by 2.13 meters, are too small for a pregnant pig to turn around in. Being confined in a stationary position for the four months of an average pregnancy leads to a variety of health problems, including urinary tract infections, weakened bone structures, overgrown hooves and mental stress, animal rights advocates say.

About 60 percent to 70 percent of the more than five million breeding sows in the United States are kept in the crates.

Several large suppliers, including Smithfield Farms and Cargill, have already begun reducing their use of the crates, but a large portion of the U.S. pork supply still comes from pigs born from sows raised in crates, Bob Langert, McDonald's vice president for sustainability, said in an interview. "When we were looking at this over the last year, we could see more needed to be done."

McDonald's asked its five direct suppliers in the United States of bacon, Canadian bacon and sausage to provide their plans for reducing reliance on sow stalls. The company will assess the plans and announce in May what steps it will take.

"It's not a simple process," Mr. Langert said. "We buy a finished product from our suppliers, who are buying from a processing facility that is buying from producers and farmers who raise the pigs -- who in turn are buying piglets from farmers who have the sows."

"There are lots of stakeholders and collaboration that are going to be involved."

Jodi Sterle, a specialist on swine reproductive management at Iowa State University, said that no easy alternative to sow stalls existed because feeding pigs was complicated by their hierarchical nature. "When they are raised in groups, there is competition for food, water and space, and especially for food," she said.

Producers have tried a method called trickle feeding, in which small amounts of food are put into feeders throughout the day, but dominant sows camp out by the feeders and push away more passive animals. …

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