Kroger urges suppliers to accelerate transition from gestation stalls
Supermarket chain giant Kroger Co. today urged its pork suppliers to speed up their transition away from using gestation stalls, but also reminded its customers that the transition may take many years.
“Over the past few months, the company has reviewed the opinions of animal welfare experts and other experts regarding the use of gestation crates for pregnant sows and has concluded that there are many ways to humanely house sows,” the company said in a news release. “Kroger believes that a gestation crate-free environment is more humane and that the pork industry should work toward gestation crate-free housing for pregnant sows. The company is encouraging its suppliers to accelerate this already-occurring transition in the Kroger supply-chain. Kroger also wants customers to know that this is a transition that may take many years.”
Kroger’s statement follows those by several foodservice and retail companies in recent months urging a transition away from gestation stalls including McDonald’s, Burger King, Denny’s, Safeway, Tim Horton’s and Wendy’s.
“Kroger’s has taken a very important step for animal welfare in declaring that the pork industry must find an exit strategy for its use of gestation crates,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS has been actively leaning on food service and retail companies that purchase pork to urge their suppliers to change their sow housing infrastructure.
Pork industry concerned
While Kroger did not put a specific timeline on its request and acknowledged the transition could take many years, last week McDonald’s set a 10-year timeline for sourcing all of its pork from farms that do not use individual stalls to house pregnant pigs.
This evoked reactions from the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board over the feasibility and economic viability of changing sow housing infrastructure over a specific time period. The groups also repeated their conviction based on peer-reviewed research that gestations stalls are an acceptable animal husbandry practice.
“We fully support continuing to explore new and better ways to protect pregnant sows,” said NPB president Everett Forkner in a statement last week. “Farmers are adopting improvements all the time as they study their farms and their animals. Going backward, though, will just put a huge financial burden on smaller pig farmers while doing nothing to improve the health and well-being of our pigs.”
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