The Humane Society of the United States is relentless and it's getting traction for its mission to change the global meat industry. This time the announcement comes as a joint statement from HSUS and Safeway that has announced it will "begin formulating plans to have a gestation stall free supply chain."
In the release, the pitch is that gestation stalls have been criticized due to animal welfare concerns, which Safeway says it is working to address: "It is Safeway's goal to have a gestation stall-free supply chain," says Brian Dowling, Safeway vice president of public affairs, who is quoted in the joint statement with HSUS.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS, notes that the grocery marketer's move is "welcome and encouraging news." He adds that the move is an important step in addressing animal welfare in the company's supply chain.
The statement notes that Safeway's move is in line with announcements from Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's and others aiming at the same goal.
The National Pork Producers Council issued a statement from its president R.C. Hunt on the move, which notes that America's hog farmers are "committed to providing a safe, affordable and healthful foods for consumers, using industry practices that have been designed with input from veterinarians and other animal care experts."
The statement from Hunt continues: " With regard to Safeway's decision to give preference to pork suppliers who phase out individual sow housing, the National Pork Producers Council is concerned that similar actions taken by governments - or other restaurant or grocery chains - have increased production costs and consumer prices. These actions have forced some hog farmers out of business or caused them to reduce operations, with no demonstrable health benefits to sows. (A study on the United Kingdom's ban on individual sow housing found that the pork supply in the UK has dropped 40% since the ban took effect in 1999, with a rise in pork production costs that were running 12% above the European Union average in 2009 and a rise in the price of pork by 25% between 1999 and 2004. See "Consumer and Food Safety Costs of Offshoring Animal Agriculture," a report prepared for the United Soybean Board, Sept. 29, 2011.) In this country, when hog farmers have gone out of business or scaled back operations in the past, it has led to consolidation."
The statement notes that NPPC supports the position taken by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, which recognize gestation stalls and group housing systems as appropriate for providing for the well-being of sows during pregnancy. In fact, the key factor that most affects animal well-being is husbandry skills – that is, the care given to each animal. There is no scientific consensus on the best way to house gestating sows because each type of housing system has inherent advantages and disadvantages, so no standard should be imposed on the industry by activist organizations.