November 23, 2014

Smithfield says contract extensions “less likely” for farmers using gestation crates

The world’s largest pork producer today announced it is asking farmers with whom it has contracts to get rid of so-called “gestation crates” for pregnant sows.

Critics contend the small, two-foot stalls which prevent a sow from moving much during her pregnancy are inhumane. Smithfield Foods has already moved more than half of the pregnant sows at company-owned farms into larger quarters, but 2100 independent farmers in a dozen states raise pigs for the company, too. Smithfield executives says contract extensions will be less likely if those farmers continue to use gestation crates. Smithfield faces pressure from food giants like McDonald’s, Safeway, Costco and almost five dozen other food retailers that will no longer buy pork from suppliers that use gestation crates for sows.

Smithfield markets pork products under the Smithfield brand name, but also sells pork under Farmland, Morrell and Armour brands.