Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Sysco Becomes the Latest Food Company To Ditch Cruel Pig Crates

Sysco, North America's largest foodservice distributor, is the latest food company to commit to phasing out the cruel gestation crates from its pork supply chain. Sysco serves over 400,000 customers worldwide, and made a whopping $40 billion in sales last year. Although Sysco is not the first company to commit to phasing out gestation crates, as a Grist article points out, it is one of the larger ones to do so, and might have the most impact as far as agricultural practices. "Sysco is wholesale food in America," as the article describes Sysco.

"The power of Sysco is the size,” said Josh Balk, manager of corporate strategy at HSUS. "This will make it so much easier for smaller restaurants to adopt a no-gestation crate policy if they’d like — because it’s what their main distributor delivers. It will also change the buying practices of many companies who they deliver to without those companies even knowing it."

Sysco indicated in a statement to the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) that it made the commitment as a result of pressure by its customers and suppliers:

"Although there are many ways to house sows, several customers and suppliers have expressed their desire to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains. Therefore, Sysco is committed to working with its suppliers to create a gestation crate-free supply system, for the good of all."

The company has yet to set a timeline, but said in its statement to the HSUS that it will "work with our pork suppliers to develop a timeline to achieve this goal."

Food companies are shifting away from gestation crates

This month has seen a flurry of announcements regarding gestation crates. The announcements included Fresh Enterprises, owner of Baja Fresh, La Salsa Mexican Grill and Canyon’s Burger restaurant chains, commiting to phasing out gestation crates. Three other companies announced timelines to phasing out the crates:

  • Sodexo, the world's second largest food service company, serving 10 million meals a day

  • Kraft Foods, the world's second largest food company, and owner of Oscar Mayer brand pork products

  • CKE Restaurants, owner of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's fast food chains

This year, in general, has been a good year when it comes to companies committing to ditching the gestation crates. Several fast food giants, Wendy's and McDonald's, committed to phasing out the crates. Compass Groups, which calls itself the world's largest food and support services, announced similar plans. In December, Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, also committed to phasing out the crates.

Why gestation crates are so cruel

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, gestation crates are cruel. The reason why they are cruel is that they are only two by seven feet, and the sows are confined in them day and night during their four-month pregnancies. When they are in labor, they are placed in another crate. Then after giving birth, they are re-impregnated, and put back into another gestation crate.

The animal welfare scientist that the HSUS describes as an advisor to the pork industry, Temple Grandin, is opposed to the use of gestation crates. "Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life," Grandin said. "We’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go." Food giants are finally doing what Grandin has advised.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Read more stories by Gina-Marie Cheeseman

More stories from Energy & Environment