In response to a Mercy for Animals video released this week, wholesale retailer Costco announced today plans to transition to a crate-free pork supply by 2022.
In an announcement from the Humane Society of the United States, Costco executive vice president of merchandising Doug Schutt said group housing was the way to go.
"We want all of the hogs throughout our pork supply chain to be housed in groups," Schutt said. "All of us at Costco take animal welfare seriously and consider humane animal handling a business imperative."
HSUS reports that the Mercy for Animals' video, shot at Christensen Farms, was a catalyst for the decision.
The four minutes of undercover footage was reviewed by a panel of animal care specialists from three universities on Tuesday. The panel, assembled by the Center for Food Integrity, included Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson, University of Illinois; Dr. Candace Croney, Purdue University; and Dr. John Deen, University of Minnesota.
The panel requested unedited footage but Mercy for Animals did not respond.
The specialists concluded that some of the footage did depict care practices that could be improved, but overall the animals were well taken care of and in good condition.
Specialists noted that the stalls appeared to be within size guidelines, and in some cases the stalls were inaccurately blamed for additional problems.
Croney was concerned that editing did not paint a true picture.
"The issue of housing sows in stalls obviously raises contention and deserves discussion but much of the video is edited in such a manner as to leave several questions unanswered about the conditions the animals are experiencing," said Croney.
Video narration of sows shown bar-biting or sham-chewing explained that this behavior is influenced by boredom.
However, Croney said this may not be the case, and while it does create concern, additional evidence is needed.
"It is difficult to attribute this to anything but a negative emotional state," said Croney. "It's important to see more here to ascertain the cause and context of the behavior. Regardless, this warrants concern."