Aramark and Humane Society Move to Eliminate Gestation Crates

Add another to the list! After several companies, such as Oscar Mayer, Wendy’s, Sysco, McDonald’s, and Costco to name a few, made calls for significant pork production changes, we now have another company demanding the removal of gestation crates from their pork production supply chains. ARAMARK, in conjunction with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), announced on August 21st its plans to eliminate all pork from animals bred using gestation crates in its U.S. supply chain. The food service company has asked its primary pork suppliers to develop plans for reducing, and then eliminating, gestation crates by 2017. New contracts with these contingencies and goals are to be in place as soon as possible.

Most breeding pigs in the U.S. are confined in gestation crates 24 hours a day, for years, for virtually their entire lives. The cages, comprised of metal bars and concrete flooring, are approximately two feet wide and prohibit the animals from even turning around, and essentially immobilize them during never-ending four-month cycles of impregnation.

And, it is not just animal rights activists who cite these conditions as unacceptable. Many farmers, animal scientists, consumers, and companies in the food service industry are working to phase out gestation crates and provide more humane breeding environments. The Humane Society distinguishes the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and which included the former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, who together recommended that “all systems that restrict natural movement,” including gestation crates, be phased out.

The Humane Society also explains that pork supplier concerns about economic difficulties due to eliminating gestation crates are, in the long term, unfounded. According to HSUS, a 2007 Iowa State University-conducted two-and-a-half year long economic comparison of gestation crates and group housing found that “reproductive performance can be maintained or enhanced in well-managed group housing systems…without increasing labor.” The study concluded that, overall, “group housing…resulted in a weaned pig cost that was 11 percent less than the cost of a weaned pig from the individual stall confinement system.”

It is no surprise, then, that “ARAMARK is proud to stand in partnership with other industry leaders and supply chain partners to transition away from gestation crates in a timely fashion,” said Kathy Cacciola, ARAMARK’s Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability. “We’re committed to operating responsibly and addressing key issues, including animal welfare, throughout our supply chain and business, and this commitment helps move the entire industry toward the elimination of gestation crates.”

“ARAMARK is the largest U.S.-based food service company taking a stand on this issue and the company’s decision to eliminate pork from methods using gestation crates is a move toward even greater social responsibility,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “ARAMARK has been a great partner to work with, and we applaud its decision to develop a proactive transition plan to 2017.”

Though not all companies approached with this cause decide to take action (shareholders of Domino’s Pizza, the world’s second largest pizza chain, shot down a recent proposal regarding their supply chain’s use of gestation crates), the fact that so many, so quickly, are joining together in the cause of ethical animal treatment can only be viewed as a victory. And for those companies lagging behind, it appears to be only a matter of time.

You can view the Humane Society’s informational video on gestation crates here.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Samantha is a graduate of Boston University with concentrations in English, Biology and Environmental Policy. After working in higher education textbook publishing for some time, she turned to the freelance writing world and now reports on corporate social responsibility, green technology and policy, and conservation for TriplePundit.