Harris Teeter Supermarkets has announced that it will ask its pork suppliers to phase out gestation-sow stalls. While company officials did not provide a deadline, they did point to Smithfield Foods’ plan to eliminate gestation stalls by 2017.

Smithfield is one of Harris Teeter’s pork suppliers. So is Niman Ranch, which the supermarket chain points out “has always been crate-free and has higher welfare, on-farm practices that are Global Animal Partnership-certified.”

As stated on a new animal welfare section of its website: ““Harris Teeter knows that there are better, more humane, and more sustainable ways to breed pigs than by using gestation crates. It is Harris Teeter’s goal to have a gestation crate-free pork supply, and the company is committed to working with its suppliers…to accomplish that goal within a reasonable and feasible timeframe.”

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) actually released the announcement for the Matthews, N.C.-based food retailer.  “Harris Teeter has demonstrated time after time its commitment to improving animal welfare in its supply chain,” said Matthew Prescott, HSUS food policy director. “Americans don’t want pigs confined in tiny cages so small they can’t even turn around, and Harris Teeter’s work to eliminate that practice is commendable.”

Harris Teeter has 210 locations in eight southern states, and its 2011 sales exceeded $4 billion.

In addition to its retail stores, Harris Teeter also owns grocery, frozen food and perishable distribution centers in Greensboro, N.C. and Indian Trail, N.C., as well as a dairy in High Point, N.C.

Harris Teeter also has a sustainability program called My Earth, that focuses on minimizing it’s impact on the environment and asks its suppliers to do the same.