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December 08, 2011

Smithfield Recommits to 2017 Phase-Out of Gestation Crates

In 2007, just three months after we won a landslide vote banning gestation crates in Arizona, I was encouraged when Smithfield Foods—the largest pork producer in the nation—announced it would end its confinement of breeding pigs in these inhumane cages on its company-owned facilities by 2017. For sure, that’s longer than any animal advocate would like, but such a commitment was historic in that no major player in the pork industry had even hinted that it would cease using gestation crates, let alone implemented a policy on the matter.

Pigs in gestation crates at a Smithfield subsidiary in 2010
The HSUS

That’s why it was so distressing when just two years later, Smithfield announced that the recession would prevent the company from meeting its self-imposed deadline and that the company would no longer have any timeline for achieving this goal. Such backpedaling led to a serious HSUS campaign, including an undercover investigation at one of its factory farms, complaints about false advertising, significant negative media coverage, and more.

Today, I’m heartened to say that the company announced that it is now back on track to meet its 2017 deadline, which is certainly welcome news and a positive, tremendously significant step. Thank you to all of our supporters who contacted Smithfield. With the company recommitting to its phase-out and with eight states committing to phase out crates, we’re getting closer to the day when the cruel confinement of pigs in gestation crates will be a bygone era for the entire hog industry.

Of course, there’s still more to be done with regard to gestation crate confinement; the announcement doesn’t include Smithfield’s contractors, and unfortunately, Smithfield’s major competitors still have no policy whatsoever to end their gestation crate use. We recognize Smithfield’s recommitment as progress and urge its competitors such as Tyson, Hormel, Triumph, Prestage, Seaboard, and others to stop lagging behind and follow suit by adopting similar policies. It’s my hope that the industry will recognize that it’s the right decision for pigs, but also for consumers, farmers, and shareholders.

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