Officials at Hillshire Brands announced that the company will work toward eliminating gestation-sow stalls from their pork supply chain. The timeline identified is for the move to be completed by 2022.

The company says it will work to advance “fact-based discussions with its suppliers and the industry in general, on alternatives to traditional gestational housing.”

While Hillshire Brands does not raise pigs, the company plans to eventually source all pork from suppliers “who use housing that provides the animals the opportunity for adequate movement and comfort, while also ensuring their safety.” Company officials point out that the goal is for pork suppliers “to combine quality animal care and worker safety with solutions that are adaptable for farm family operations of all sizes.”

Headquartered in Downers Grove, Ill, Hillshire Brands owns Hillshire Farms, Ballpark, Jimmy Dean and State Fair meat brands. A major sausage and processed meats provider for both retail and foodservice sectors, Hillshire Brands is a significant pork user. It also has artisanal brands Aidells and Gallo Salame

“Hillshire Brands takes concerns about the welfare of animals seriously, which is why we have a comprehensive Animal Well-Being Program in place,” says Mike Cummins, director of corporate communications, Hillshire Brands. “We know we share a responsibility to ensure the meat we sell is safe and that it comes from animals raised in a humane way.”

He points out that currently, all of Hillshire Brands’ meat suppliers must complete appropriate audits and certifications before they can work with the company. These requirements are in addition to routine animal well-being inspections performed by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

This marks the 29th food company in 2012 to announce it will work toward eliminating gestation-sow stalls from its pork supply chain.

As with several of the previous announcements of this type, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which has driven the effort among food companies, also spearheaded the news release. “For a major meat company like Hillshire to take this step forward is further evidence that gestation crate confinement is on its last leg,” says Josh Balk, HSUS corporate policy director of farm animal protection. “There's no better time for the pork industry to prove it can solve serious issues by enacting an industry-wide phase-out of gestation crates.”

Hillshire Brands transitioned from Sara Lee Corporation’s split, which occurred earlier this year. The company generates nearly $4 billion in annual sales and has approximately 9,500 employees.

Among its more direct competitors, Oscar Mayer, Hormel Foods and Smithfield Foods have made similar commitments to gestation-sow housing changes, although the timelines vary.