In early 2007, Smithfield Foods officials announced that the company would commit to moving its gestation sows out of stalls and into group housing systems. This week, those officials reported that the company will delay those plans due to financial stresses facing Smithfield and the industry in general.
The shift in plans was revealed in the company's 2009 annual report, according to The Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
When Smithfield originally announced the switch to group-sow gestation, the plan was to use a phase-in strategy involving new and remodeling facilities over a decade. Animal rights groups praised the world's largest pork processor and the United States' No. 1 pork producer for this commitment.
Smithfield reports that it has converted three farms to group-sow housing. However, officials say they no longer expect to meet the original 2017 deadline. Smithfield has lost $190 million in its fiscal year 2009, and the group-sow-housing transition cost is estimated at $300 million.
"We remain committed to implementing the program as soon as economic conditions improve," the company said in its annual report.