Nation’s Largest Pork Producer Discontinues Use of “Crates”

From the Washington Post:

    The largest U.S. pork supplier, Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, said yesterday that it will require its producers to phase out the practice of keeping pregnant pigs in “gestation crates” — metal and concrete cages that animal welfare advocates consider one of the most inhumane features of large-scale factory farming.

    Activists hailed the decision as perhaps the most significant voluntary improvement ever made in animal welfare, but they said the stage had been set by the recent passage of two state initiatives that would ban the use of the crates.

Smithfield denies that the change is the result of Animal Welfare advocacy, claiming that McDonald’s and several supermarkets were pressuring for the change. —MEGHANN MARCO

Largest Pork Processor to Phase Out Crates [Washington Post] [Photo: wallyg]

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  1. claiming that McDonald’s and several supermarkets were pressuring for the change

    Seriously?

    This may be horribly cynical but why would McDonald’s care?

  2. nweaver says:

    Because McDonalds wants to make sure that they don’t get on PITA’s shit list after KFC caves.

  3. homerjay says:

    McDonalds sells pork products? I must be missing someting on their menu…

  4. rubberpants says:

    That’s a pretty loose usage of the word “voluntary.”

  5. Magister says:

    I hope this doesn’t negatively affect the taste. Crate them up if that means my bacon will be good!!!

  6. Sudonum says:

    Homerjay, while I refuse personally to go near a McDonalds. I do believe they have some kind of breakfast sausage sandwich thingy.

  7. SmoovyG says:

    Not to mention the inexplicably tasty McRib (for limited times only)!

  8. Luxy says:

    Smithfield is a vile, disgusting company. Boing Boing recently posted a bunch of info on them: http://www.boingboing.net/2007/01/20/big_factory_pig_farm….

    Personally, I buy my pork from the PA Dutch.

  9. Pelagius says:

    After reading the story on Smithfields linked from Boingboing last Saturday, you can bet I’m on turkey sandwiches this week.

    Please don’t anyone take that as an invitation to post stories about how disgusting turkey farms have become.

  10. acambras says:

    And the Egg McMuffin has alleged Canadian bacon.

    Off topic, but the Satriale’s photo reminds me that HBO has been dragging out the Sopranos’ final season FOREVER.

  11. homerjay says:

    The Ribwitch! “Try the sauce, I’m soaked in it!”

  12. how long before they discontinue the use of “pigs”?

  13. BillyShears says:

    I think any given item on the McDonald’s menu that’s affected by this has just enough pig in it to be legally called “pork.”

    But not an ounce more.

  14. non-meat-stick says:

    “He said all 187 Smithfield-owned pig nurseries would be converted within 10 years, and contract growers will be eventually expected to move in that direction.”


    Wouldn’t want to move too quickly here.

  15. “why would McDonald’s care?”

    Believe it or not, McDonald’s is a national leader in humane slaughter procedures. (For corporate/factory slaughterhouses.) They hold their slaughterhouses to extremely strict standards — higher than the government’s standards by quite a bit — and drop the contract with any slaughterhouse that fails inspection. Their practices are considered industry-best and their clout has done a lot to improve slaughterhouses in the US. Temple Grandin does their audits and designs newer plants for them.

    Now, as to why McDonald’s CARES … that’s a whole different question. There’s actually a slight cost savings to a humane slaughterhouse (the animals don’t balk when you try to put them in, which can stop the whole assembly line thing), and maybe someone high on the totem pole has a real conscience about animal welfare. And maybe they just like the good publicity. Or maybe they’re just worried about their karma for killing so many cows. And pigs and chickens.

  16. Daytonna says:

    Meh, does raising the pigs in something other than “crates” effect the taste of my Bacon? because that is about the extent of my concern over how meat producing animals are raised/slaughtered. as long as they are not fed on bonemeal or animal byproduct proteins. Not a fan of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

    Ref: Wikipedia

    “Cattle, like most other food animals, are normally herbivores. In nature, cattle eat grass or grains. In modern industrial cattle-farming, various commercial feeds are used, which may contain ingredients including antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, fertilizers, and protein supplements. The use of meat and bone meal as a protein supplement in cattle feed was widespread in Europe prior to about 1987.[citation needed] Worldwide, Soybean meal is the primary plant-based protein supplement fed to cattle. However, soybeans do not grow well in Europe, so cattle raisers throughout Europe turned to the less expensive animal byproduct feeds as an alternative.”

  17. VA_White says:

    Feeding animals their own by-products is what started the spread of BSE in Europe. Nature frowns on large-scale mammalian cannibalism, obviously.

  18. AcilletaM says:

    More to Eyebrow’s point, the afterword in the paperback edition of Fast Food Nation addresses the changes required by McDonald’s on pages 280-284 in the section called ‘decline and fall’. The section highlights the power of McDonald’s to demand changes for animals but also denotes that human conditions were not improved.

  19. isadora says:

    I’m not a vegetarian–not by a long shot!–but there are several things to consider beyond the “taste” of your animal of choice. Factory-farming in the U.S. is a horrible business that taxes resources of all kinds. The animals are woefully abused, the workers are woefully underpaid and overworked (often in dangerous conditions), and the environment is damaged (the waste management alone is a massive concern if you live anywhere near a factory farm).

    All of these things can be improved without affecting the taste of the meat (and the more humane the practices, the less likely we are to see animals pumped full of antibiotics to keep down the spread of disease).

    This is why I buy meat at Whole Foods. It’s expensive, but I’m worth it. And the food is insanely delicious!