McDonald’s Phasing Out Sow Gestation Cages

by | Feb 14, 2012

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McDonald’s is requiring U.S. pork suppliers to outline plans to phase out the use of sow gestation stalls, in a move supported by the Humane Society, the company announced.

Suppliers have been asked to submit the plans by May, after which McDonald’s says it will share assessment results and announce its next steps. The fast food chain is one of the nation’s largest purchasers of pork, according to National Pork Producers Council spokesman David Warner, quoted on Bloomberg.

McDonald’s senior vice president of North America supply chain management, Dan Gorsky, said that gestation stalls are not a sustainable production system for the future, and that there are alternative better for the welfare of sows.

Such cages measure about two feet by seven feet – too small for the sows to turn around.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, described the McDonald’s announcement as important and promising.

Last November HSUS lodged a legal complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that McDonald’s supplier Smithfield Foods is making misleading claims about its corporate responsibility practices. In one video Smithfield says that it provides animals with “ideal” living conditions and that their animals’ “every need is met,” but HSUS said the use of gestation crates invalidates these claims.

In making this week’s announcement, McDonald’s said Smithfield Foods and fellow supplier Cargill have made significant progress towards eliminating gestation crates.

Bloomberg noted that restaurant chain Chipotle, which spun off of McDonald’s in 2006, started requiring 11 years ago that pork suppliers raise pigs outside or in large cages. Suppliers must also use antibiotic-free and vegetarian food.

Chipotle got a fresh burst of attention for these initiatives with the broadcast debut of this quirky animated commercial, shown during Sunday night’s Grammy awards. It was the company’s first national ad in its 18-year history, but has been up on YouTube since August, Fox News reports.

In 2010 McDonald’s implemented a software system for supplier data collection, and required suppliers of pork, beef, poultry, toys, potatoes and buns to provide waste, pollution and resource use data for the top nine markets.

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