The nation’s second-largest grocery chain wants to do business with suppliers who can provide pork without the use of gestation-sow stalls in the production process. On Monday, Safeway officials announced that they will start formulating plans to have a gestation stall-free supply chain.

“It is Safeway’s goal to have a gestation-stall-free supply chain,” says Brian Dowling, Safeway vice president of public affairs.

“This includes all pork products as well as grocery items that contain pork,” according to Matthew Prescott, food policy director for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). HSUS not only supports Safeway’s announcement, but was involved in the announcement.

Dowling says Safeway is formulating plans to determine how it can reach that 100 percent goal of a “gestation-stall-free supply chain.

That could be an uphill climb. Despite the commonly cited 30 percent of U.S. sows being moved out of gestation stalls sometime in the next few years, most pork industry estimates suggest the amount is at most 10 percent.    

“Our company supports the efforts of our suppliers who have committed to reductions in their use of gestation stalls,” Dowling adds. Over the last several years, Safeway “has substantially increased the quantity of pork it buys from producers that have made commitments to decreasing gestation stalls in their breeding facilities,” according to a company release.  

“Between McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Compass Group, and now Safeway, all saying they will become totally gestation stall-free, the momentum is quickly building on this issue,” Prescott adds.

“Given the scope and quantity of pork products sold by Safeway, this announcement is an important step in addressing animal welfare in the company’s supply chain,” says Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and chief executive officer.

Another animal rights' group, Mercy for Animals (MFA), responded to Safeway's announcement, "we hope this announcement is more than PR hogwash." MFA is calling on Walmart, Costco and Kroger to "follow Safeway's lead" related to gestation-sow stalls.

MFA is the group that last year released an undercover video involving Iowa Select farms, which has supplied pork to Safeway. The video primarily targeted gestation stalls as an "inherently cruel." 

Iowa Select Farms had Anna Johnson, animal well-being specialist at Iowa State University, conduct an independent audit of the company's animal care and handling practices, following MFA's challenges. The pork production firm has an extensive animal well-being program in place called Select Care. You can learn more about it here.