Pork Production Forced to Transition to Open Housing

Last week, The McDonald’s Corporation said that it would begin working with its pork suppliers to phase out the use of gestation crates in to open pen housing.

Animal rights advocates have singled out the system, known as gestation crates, as inhumane, and several states have moved to ban or restrict their use not only in pork production. Dr. Gene Nemechek, swine veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health says that either an open housing system or a gestation stall system are scientifically sound:

“In the real world, the National Pork Board, and the National Pork Producers Council has sponsored research to look at this issue, and their research shows that sows will do very well in either type of housing, and a lot of it depends on the management and husbandry that goes along with the producers ability to look out for their animals. And so, these housing systems, they can provide…either one can provide for the wellbeing of the pigs, just depends on the producer and what his facilities are like.”

Tommy Porter maintains a 2,000 sow farrow-to-wean operation near Concord, NC disagrees:

“Our sows are in gestation crates, there’s a reason for that, the sows can be better cared for, the sows are actually more content that way because they don’t have the pecking order that they have to fight with the other sows, we can individually feed them, individually care for them, monitor them.”

Don Butler, director of government relations and public affairs for Murphy Brown, the production arm of Smithfield Foods explains that in 2007, the company, responding to customer concern, dedicated its company owned farms to the phasing out of gestation stalls into open housing:

“We’re well under way with that process. In fact, January 1st, 2012, we were a little beyond 30% complete with that project and there’s a lot of work ongoing.”

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