The United States’ No. 1 traditional grocery chain, Kroger Co., has announced its commitment to sourcing pork from suppliers that eliminate the use of gestation-sow stalls.  

In a statement released on Monday, Kroger officials report that they have begun informing suppliers of the company’s new stepped up policy. “Kroger has science-based standards for animal welfare and works diligently to ensure that its suppliers treat animals humanely,” the company’s statement said. “Over the past few months, the company has reviewed the opinions of animal welfare experts and other experts regarding the use of gestation crates for pregnant sows and has concluded that there are many ways to humanely house sows.”

Kroger officials say they believe that a gestation crate-free environment is more humane and that the pork industry should work toward such a system to house pregnant sows.

The grocer did not cite a specific timeline, but following McDonald’s announcement last week that it will implement a 2022 final deadline, it’s likely Kroger and others may follow the lead.

Kroger says it wants its suppliers to accelerate and prioritize the transition within its supply-chain, but the company also wants its customers to know that this transition that may take many years to accomplish.

In the United States, Kroger operates 2,435 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states. These operations encompass 24 local banner names, including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith's. The company also operates 791 convenience stores, 348 fine jewelry stores, 1,090 supermarket fuel centers and 39 food processing plants in the United States, according to its website.

Pork producers from across the United States and the globe will converge in Des Moines, Iowa this week for World Pork Expo. The topic of gestation-sow housing will be front and center as officers, staff and members of the National Pork Producers Council, the National Pork Board and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, will review sow-housing research, options and infrastructure feasibility.

“Kroger’s announcement comes on the heels of Safeway, the nation’s second-largest grocery chain, announcing in May that it’s eliminating gestation crates in its supply chain,” says Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). “I believe the industry is doing brand damage by defending these inhumane confinement crates, and standing in the way of other animal welfare reforms.”

HSUS has been working with some food companies to adopt the no-gestation-stall position, and has been pressuring others to follow suit.

Kroger officials emphasize that more than a decade ago the company urged the industry to create meaningful animal welfare standards, and that it regularly audits suppliers to ensure animals are raised, transported, and processed as humanely as possible. You can find out more at Kroger’s website.