Smithfield Foods Inc. is asking its contract growers to have their sow barns converted out of gestation stalls by 2022.
Converting will be required for contract renewals, although instead of citing it as a penalty, Smithfield calls it an “incentive” to convert.
Smithfield is making the move because many large-volume pork buyers, such as supermarket and restaurant chains, have committed to buying only pork from farms that no longer use gestation stalls.
They have done that under pressure from the Humane Society of the United States.
There are similar pressures in Canada where hog-packer Olymel has committed to eventually buying only from farmers who don’t use gestation stalls and where a number of retailers have joined the campaign.
Canada has national codes of practice for animal welfare and hog farmers are anxiously awaiting the final position on revisions. The draft revisions called for phasing out gestation crates, but would allow them to be used short term.
There are conflicting opinions about whether gestation crates or pen housing is safer and better for sow welfare.