Sausage seller Bob Evans Farms, Inc., based in Columbus recently made an extensive statement regarding their role in sow housing and livestock care.
"Bob Evans Farms, Inc. is committed to the responsible care of animals that are raised to provide food products for our customers. We have an obligation to meet the expectations of our consumers on food quality, food safety and the well-being of animals. We also recognize that many challenges exist with respect to sow housing, and that some current systems may not provide ample space for gestating sows.
"To meet those responsibilities, decisions made by our company must be ethically grounded, scientifically verified, sustainable and economically viable. As part of that decision-making process, Bob Evans Farms recently held extensive discussions with a wide range of stakeholders – including farmers, customers, industry trade groups and animal rights advocates – to discuss housing systems for gestating sows.
"Bob Evans Farms' internal experts consulted regularly on sow housing with members of our Animal Well-Being Committee, which includes three independent outside experts in animal behavior and well-being. We also considered academic research and scientific literature that examined the advantages and disadvantages of individual and group housing environments for gestating sows.
"Our key learning is this – the single-most critical factor in ensuring animal well-being is not the housing system itself, but rather the animal husbandry practiced by those who care for the sows. Although there is no perfect housing system available, we will remain focused on quality animal care from trained, qualified caretakers and a safe on-farm working environment.
"Consistent with the livestock care standards adopted in our home state of Ohio, by 2025, we will require all suppliers to source animals from housing systems that provide the animals with ample opportunity for movement and comfort and ensure the safety of the workers who care for them. We believe this is best achieved by transitioning from conventional gestation stall housing to systems that provide greater freedom of movement and individual care and safety. To help us reach that goal, we will continue to seek counsel from our Animal Well-Being Committee and to support groups that conduct research on hog housing."
The Ohio Pork Producers Council replied to the statement with one of their own saying, "OPPC firmly supports the right for farmers to choose the method of sow (mother pig) housing that allows them (farmers) to provide the best possible care for their animals. For many farms, individual maternity pens allow for better, more precise animal care and increased safety for both the animals and their human caregivers. Not every housing option will work for every farm, making it increasingly important to allow farmers to choose what works in their situation. Regardless of the system, what really matters is the individual care given to each pig by their caretakers. Animal care has always been, and will remain, the number one priority for pork farmers."
Bob Evans Restaurants owns and operates 565 family restaurants in 19 states, primarily in the Midwest, mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of the United States. Bob Evans Farms, Inc., through its BEF Foods segment, is also a leading producer and distributor of refrigerated side dishes, pork sausage and a variety of complementary convenience food items under the Bob Evans and Owens brand names.