The Humane Society of the United States has submitted a shareholder resolution requesting that Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods—which recently reported a 61 percent drop in quarterly profits—disclose to shareholders how it plans to meet the growing demand for pork produced without the use of gestation crates.
The recent decisions by McDonald’s, Burger King, Costco, Kroger, Safeway, Oscar Mayer and many other leading food companies to eliminate gestation crates from their pork supplies signal a reversal in a three-decade-old trend in the pork industry that leaves most mother pigs confined day and night in gestation crates during their four-month pregnancy.
These cages are roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies and designed to prevent them from even turning around. Mother pigs are subsequently transferred into another crate to give birth, re-impregnated, and put back into a gestation crate.
This happens pregnancy after pregnancy for their entire lives, adding up to years of virtual immobilization. This confinement system has come under fire from veterinarians, farmers, animal welfare advocates, animal scientists, consumers and others.
“Despite its own largest customers demanding changes, Tyson continues allowing its suppliers to cram pigs in crates so small they can’t even turn around,” said Matthew Prescott, food policy director for The HSUS.
“Tyson’s dwindling sales should be a wake-up call to the company that it needs to stop lagging behind its competition and customers on this important social issue.”
In addition to leading food companies, major pork producers have also announced plans to move away from gestation crates. Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, andHormel Foods announced they will be 100 percent gestation crate-free for company-owned operations within five years and Cargill is already 50 percent gestation crate-free.
Gestation Crates Facts:
Nine U.S. states have banned the use of gestation crates and others have bills pending that would outlaw it.
Renowned animal welfare scientist and advisor to the pork industry Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is clear on this issue: “Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.” Grandin further states, “We’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.”
An Iowa State University economic study concluded that breeding pigs in groups, rather than individual crates, can save pork producers up to 11 percent on costs.
Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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