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McDonald’s US pledges to phase out sow stalls

By Melodie Michel , 16-Feb-2012

Related topics: Safety & Legislation, Livestock, Pork, United States

Fast-food giant McDonald’s has announced its decision to ask US pork suppliers to eliminate gestation crates for sows.

A preliminary assessment is under way, and the corporation will announce a more detailed plan in May. “McDonald’s believes gestation stalls are not a sustainable production system for the future. There are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows. McDonald’s wants to see the end of sow confinement in gestation stalls in our supply chain,” said Dan Gorsky, senior vice-president of McDonald’s North America supply chain management.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) welcomed the move as “promising”. Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, said: “All animals deserve humane treatment, including farm animals, and it’s just wrong to immobilise animals for their whole lives in crates barely larger than their bodies.”

EU influence

The move comes weeks after two major US pork processors, Hormel Foods and Smithfield Foods, announced their plan to phase out gestation crates from their production plants. According to Katy Read, head of food business at Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), recent voluntary welfare measures in the US have been encouraged by high European standards.

“US companies, as indeed many leading global companies, look to the EU for direction of travel in terms of welfare improvements and also customer perceptions. The Australian pig industry is also leading the way in this respect, with many major players voluntarily phasing out sow stalls due to increased consumer awareness and concerns about the confinement systems,” she told GlobalMeatNews.

“We think this is a very positive step by McDonald’s to take a leadership position in the US market and phase out sow stalls. As with leading companies in the US taking policy decisions to source only cage-free eggs, in light of the recent barren battery cage ban in the EU, consumer perception of standard intensive confinement systems and the desire to be an industry leader is important in the decision-making process. There are significant marketing opportunities for companies making policy decisions to source higher-welfare produce as it enhances the perception of brand quality and a company’s [corporate conscience] credentials,” Read added.

The EU is preparing for a complete ban on sow stalls to be implemented in 2013, and some countries, including the UK, have already phased out gestation crates, but there is no such legislation in the US.

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