Oscar Mayer joins the anti-gestation-stall list

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Oscar Mayer officials announced on Friday that the company it will give its pork suppliers 10 years to eliminate gestation-sow stalls within their pork production systems and adopt alternative systems. This mirrors the deadline that CKE Restaurants announced earlier in the day.

While the Oscar Mayer brand does not raise pigs, the plan is to source all pork from suppliers who can provide pregnant sow housing that safely allows for greater movement for the animal, while ensuring their comfort, according to the company’s statement.

Kraft Foods owns Oscar Mayer, which is headquartered in Madison, Wis. Kraft Foods is the world’s second-largest food company. The Oscar Mayer meat brand is best known for its hot dogs, bacon and further processed meat products, including its famous bologna.

“At Oscar Mayer, we believe quality meat begins with quality animal care. We are committed to finding better ways to keep animals healthy and in a safe environment while treating them with respect,” says Sydney Lindner, Oscar Mayer’s associate director of corporate affairs. “This is not only important to us, but also to our consumers who care about animal well-being and comfort.”

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) applauded Kraft Foods and Oscar Mayer for its announcement. “Oscar Mayer’s plan for eliminating gestation crates from its supply chain sends a strong message to pork industry leaders who are resisting change,” says Paul Shapiro, HSUS vice president of farm animal protection. “For pigs confined to gestation crates, change can’t come soon enough. Although the company is allowing for a lengthy phase-in of this policy, we’re glad Kraft and Oscar Mayer are on the path to reform and working to improve conditions for pigs.”

“The Oscar Mayer brand has a history of finding better ways. It is working with animal care experts, suppliers and their farm families to find alternatives to traditional gestation stalls that provide quality animal care, consider worker safety, and are adaptable for farm families of all sizes to implement,” the company’s release stated.

In response to Friday's developments, Neil Dierks, chief executive officer of the National Pork Producers Council, said, "Food companies can make all the pronouncements they want regarding gestation stalls. But the facts remains that the overwhelming majority of sows in the U.S. herd spend at least some time in such housing, and there is no industrywide system for segreating and verfying pork came from pigs that came from sows that weren't in gestation stalls."

Dierks pointed out that if pork producers are forced to abandon individual-sow housing, it will cost consumers more than a few cents extra for their bacon.

"And all of that comes with no benefit," he added, "in fact, possibly a detriment to the animals. As care providers, pork producers should have the latitude to determine the best housing system for the care of the animals in their operation." For most producers, that means gestation stall, Dierks said.

"Why would they abandon such a system, particularly when there has been no discussion of incentives in the marketplace to move away from it?" he added.

Kraft Food markets products in 170 countries, and reports a 2011 revenue of $54.4 billion. It is currently in the process of dividing and creating two independent public companies: a high-growth global snacks business and a high-margin North American grocery business. The transaction is expected to be completed before year’s end.

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kansas  |  July, 09, 2012 at 09:45 AM

Mr. Dierks makes some excellent points, but is preaching to the choir. The "perceived consumer" as (mis)-represented in this by radical, extremist animal rights organizations like HSUS & PETA, are not receiving the message. PORK is an excellent publication, but I doubt many of the stories are being picked up by MSNBC, FOX, NPR or PBS are they? Taking the Fight to the Streets and Speaking Truth to Power (ala' Occupy) are all the MSM are interested in these days, and our industry's failure to utilize the style and tools of our enemies - yes, they are enemies - will end us very quickly. Publicly accusing Kraft, and the many others who've knuckled under, of pandering to Lawfare/Boycott-Blackmailers like HSUS out of weakness and ignorance (supported by Dierks facts) would draw some attention, yes? Maybe a nice open letter in the NYT, LAT, WAPO "exposing" the attacks on settled-science, farmers' markets and free enterprise? Maybe a few of the largest integrators could hint they're considering "boycotting" a major retail food chain themselves? That would inspire many in the chattering classes to wet themselves out-loud.

K. Michael    
Arizona  |  July, 09, 2012 at 10:32 AM

If agribusiness is so concerned about cost of implementing more humane housing - instead of spending money on ads, why not use funds to make the modest improvements that will benefit consumers and animals? You can name call and blame 'radical extremists' all you want, but the fact is that the public overwhelmingly supports humane care of animals, even those that are raised for food. There is nothing radical or extreme in allowing pregnant pigs enough room to simply turn around and extend its limbs.

Iowa  |  July, 09, 2012 at 10:46 AM

I believe livestock producers are more concerned with the care of their animals than the anti-meat groups such as PETA or HSUS as their livelyhood depends on their productivity. Unfortunately the definitions of welfare vary. Housing sows in groups cannot be deemed "humane" by edict because it is based on opinion, not fact.

Merton McPeak    
MN  |  July, 09, 2012 at 09:33 PM

I have sent several letters to Peta inviting them to visit our nucleus herd to observe sows that are docile enough to go into group housing and I have volunteered to show PETA other herds not bred for docility and the resulting chaos and tragedy non docile sows inflict on each other. I explained to them how it will take years for some major breeders to develop docile group housing sows. Peta does not even respond to becoming educated on the problems in moving from stalls to group housing, especially the vulva biting. PETA is causing and will cause a lot of animal cruelty on some farms. because they won't listen..I am pretty sure they will not stop until they have forced an entirely plant based diet on all Americans. Maybe some packers should take a step back and realize PETA is not their friend and spreading their propaganda may not be in their best interest in the long run?

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