Sow gestation crates are incredibly confined spaces, just seven feet by two feet, that female pigs (sows) are forced to live in. They are so small that the sows can’t turn around. They are moved to a different crate to give birth, and after giving birth, are soon impregnated and put back into a gestation crate. When the pigs can’t reproduce any longer, they are sent to slaughter. Fortunately, corporations like the fast-food chain, Wendy’s are starting to require that their pork suppliers phase out the use of gestation crates. Wendy’s made the announcement on March 22, 2012, that it will require its U.S. and Canadian pork suppliers to outline plans to phase out the use of gestation crates.
Wendy’s is the latest in a number of companies to commit to phasing out gestation crates. Compass Group announced on March 8, 2012 that it is committing to eliminating all pork that comes from pigs bred using gestation crates in its U.S. supply chain by 2017. The company bills itself as the world’s largest food and support services, and runs dining operations at over 10,000 schools, colleges and universities, corporations, hospitals and senior living centers, and sports and entertainment venue across the U.S. Since Compass Group buys 38 million pounds of pork a year, it’s commitment to phasing out gestation crates is significant.
Bon Appétit Management Company announced on February 21, 2012 that it will require all the pork it serves, three million pounds a year, be produced without the use of gestation crates. The policy will be “phased in by 2015,” according to a press release. The company operates over 400 cafes for corporations, universities, museums and specialty venues in 31 states.
Another major fast-food chain, McDonald’s announced on February 13, 2012 that it will require its U.S. pork suppliers to outline plans to phase out gestation crates. McDonald’s is one of Smithfield Foods', the largest pork producers on the planet, largest buyers. In December, Smithfield announced plans to completely phase out the use of gestation crates by 2017. The company first committed to phasing out the use of the crates in 2007, but didn’t commit to a timeline then. The Humane Society pressed Smithfield to commit to a timeline.
Neither McDonald’s nor Wendy’s committed to a timeline for phasing out the use of gestation crates by its suppliers. Just as the Humane Society had to press Smithfield to commit to a timeline, chances are great that the organization will end up in a few years having to press both fast-food companies to commit to a timeline.
How gestation crates came to be used
In a blog post, Whole Foods Market reminds consumers that it banned the use of gestation crates “by all of our pork suppliers” in 2003. The blog posts also included information about how the pork industry first began using gestation crates. The “demand for cheaper meat” in the 1960s and 1970s “forced most farmers to raise hogs in barns so that they could produce more pork without having to increase their farm size,” the post states.
Factory farming and the increased appetite for meat are the reasons why cruel things like gestation creates exist. In 1970, Americans ate 168 pounds of meat a year, according to USDA statistics. In 2005, Americans ate 185 pounds a year. Until Americans commit to eating less meat, factory farming will be a reality.
Photo credits: factoryfarming.com photo gallery
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.