In the next decade, McDonald's fast food restaurants won't take pork from farms that pen sows up separately, the company announced Thursday.
McDonald's wants 100 percent of its suppliers to be rid of sow stalls commonly used during gestation. McDonald's wants pork producers to make the change during the next 10 years.
The National Pork Producers Council expressed disappointment with McDonald’s decision. They said individual sow stalls are often best for female hogs.
The overwhelming majority of the country’s nearly 6 million sows spend some time in a stall during the gestation cycle, the pork producers group said.
At least the change won't be required overnight, the NPPC said.
“McDonald’s – unlike other food companies – did the research to find out how complex this issue is,” said NPPC President R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, N.C. “At least it discussed its plans with the pork industry and has concerns with the available pork supply from stall-free operations and with the transition away from stalls that would be required of producers.”
NPPC suggested other food companies consider the supply realities of the pork industry before making similar decisions.
“We’d be glad to discuss with food companies challenges caused by a transition in production systems,” Hunt said, “but the bottom line is, regardless of any difficulties, the issue of sow housing is about providing the best care possible for our animals. Individual sow housing allows us an option to give that best care.”
There is no science-based benefit to the welfare of sows who live in groups, the NPPC said. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians recognize gestation stalls and group housing as appropriate for providing for the well-being of sows during pregnancy.
The key factor that most affects animal well-being is husbandry skills – that is, the care given to each animal, the NPPC said.
Because nearly all sows are kept in individual pens, any claims by food companies that some of their pork currently comes from stall-free operations are misleading and cannot be validated. Most pork packers do not segregate product by sow housing type, the NPPC said.