On Thursday, McDonald's USA shared its 10-year plan to work with its pork suppliers to phase out the use of gestation stalls in its U.S. pork supply.
McDonald's Corporation first announced in February that it will require its U.S. pork suppliers to transition away from the use of sow gestation stalls. The move was applauded by the Humane Society of the United States, the American Humane Association and other animal activist organizations.
Gestation stalls have long been criticized as being inhumane, as they are too small for sows to move freely.
"All animals deserve humane treatment, including farm animals, and it's just wrong to immobilize animals for their whole lives in crates barely larger than their bodies," said Wayne Pacelle, the HSUS' president and CEO.
The goal of McDonald's 10-year plan, which was developed with input from its suppliers, pork producers and animal welfare experts, is to source all pork for its U.S. business from producers that do not house pregnant sows in gestation stalls by the end of 2022.
As an interim step, by 2017, McDonald's will seek to source pork for its U.S. business only from producers who share its commitment to phase out gestation stalls. To achieve this, McDonald's will work with producers and suppliers to develop needed traceability systems that will verify pork sourced from non-gestation stall supply chains and assess how to best support producers migrating away from gestation stalls.
"We value our relationship with our suppliers, and our shared commitment to animal welfare," said Dan Gorsky, senior vice president of McDonald's North America Supply Chain Management. "Our approach seeks to build on the work already in place, and we are also sensitive to the needs of the smaller, independent pork producers in phasing out of gestation stalls."
The plan will take 10 years to implement because the change is complex and requires additional resources, said Dr. Temple Grandin, animal welfare scientist at the University of Colorado and member of McDonald's Animal Welfare Council.
"The timeline that McDonald's has outlined is necessary to research and identify better housing alternatives and ensure proper training of employees," Grandin said. "This is really good forward thinking, and I commend McDonald's for doing it."
National Pork Board responds
Not everyone is applauding McDonald's announcement, however. Everett Forkner, president of the National Pork Board said Thursday he is disappointed in the announcement by McDonald's Corp.
"For a producer who has built a new barn in the past few years, McDonald's announced timeline could force them to make significant new investments," said Forkner, who also is a farmer from Richards, Mo. "So to make the conversion, my fellow producers are going to have to go to a banker with a plan that is likely to increase costs and reduce productivity — not a plan that is likely to inspire great confidence in a banker or investor."
Forkner said publicly held pork production companies with access to capital and bond markets may be able to make the conversion more easily, but consumers may be likely to pay some of the higher production costs.
The National Pork Board's position continues to be that peer-reviewed research shows overwhelmingly that both individual stalls and open pens are appropriate ways to provide good care to pregnant sows.
"When sows are thrown together they can become very aggressive. Dominant sows physically attack the others, bite them and steal their food. The housing used by most farmers was designed to protect sows from this bullying while they are most vulnerable, during their pregnancies," Forkner said. "Farmers are adopting improvements all the time as they study their farms and their animals. Going backward, though, will just put a huge financial burden on smaller pig farmers while doing nothing to improve the health and well-being of our pigs."
Numerous QSRs also have developed plans to adopt or have put into place gestation-free suppliers, including Tim Hortons, Wendy's, Sonic and Burger King.
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