A major U.S. food distributor-- Atlantic Premium Brands Ltd.—wants its pork suppliers to eliminate gestation-sow stalls. Announced on Friday “with the support of the Humane Society of the United States” (HSUS), the Northbrook, Ill.-based company set a deadline of 2017.
Atlantic Premium Brands distributes food products throughout the United States. Some of its retail clients include the grocery chains Walmart, HEB, Kroger, Costco, Win Dixie, Sam’s Club, Safeway, and SuperValu. Worth noting, Kroger, Costco and Safeway have all previously announced their own plans to give their suppliers a gestation-stall-free deadline.
The company has operations in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma that manufacture and market fresh, refrigerated and frozen food products sold under regional brand names, primarily in the southern U.S. region, with heavy distribution in the three states cited. Some of the regional brands include Blue Ribbon Bacon, Blue Ribbon Sausage, Texas Traditions Premium Smoked Sausage, Richard's Cajun Foods, Cajun Favorites, Carlton, Country Boy, JC Potter and JCP Country Classics.
“Atlantic Premium takes animal welfare seriously, and wholeheartedly endorses the transition from gestation crates to group housing for pigs, which is the direction many of our pork suppliers are already moving,” says Thomas Dalton, president and chief executive officer. “Like many of our customer partners and others in the food industry, we too are putting in place plans to have a gestation crate-free supply chain by 2017, which is the date by which many leading pork producers will be gestation crate-free.”
Pork Network contacted Atlantic Premium, to clarify this last statement as a University of Missouri survey conducted this year, showed that currently only 17 percent of the animals in the U.S. swine breeding herd spend “some amount of time” in group housing. That does not mean that 17 percent are being housed in group systems.
While some producers have committed to moving toward group-gestation housing there is no concrete measure as to the percentage of the producers or swine herd that might adopt the system. Nor is there a perspective of the actual timelines that producers might achieve, especially given the dramatically severe economic conditions U.S. pork producers are facing in light of this summer’s drought and feed availability.
“We welcome Atlantic Premium’s work to improve animal welfare in its supply chain, and are glad to see it joining the list of major food companies working with their pork suppliers to end the confinement of pigs in gestation crates,” says Matthew Prescott, HSUS food policy director. “At a time when so many retailers are rising to the public’s demand for improved treatment of pigs, Atlantic Premium’s commitment is both ethical, and a smart business move.”