Safeway Says It Is Moving Toward Crate-Free Pork Suppliers

Safeway is joining the ranks of other food providers, announcing that it plans to stop using any pork suppliers that put pregnant sows in cages as part of the production process. Animal rights groups call caging or crating pigs inhumane.

According to Reuters, Safeway, the second-largest U.S. grocery store chain, is on the track to sustainability. Currently, it’s common in the industry to keep pregnant pigs in narrow metal cages called gestation crates, where they can’t move, for months. Proponents of the practice say it keeps pigs from fighting with each other.

“We think there are more sustainable pork production methods,” said Safeway vice president of public affairs Brian Dowling. Safeway didn’t set a date for when it will begin the move toward cage-free pigs, but said it would take a “long period.”

Safeway’s announcement is a pretty big deal in the industry, because everyone wants to sell them pigs.

“Most pork producers either sell to Safeway or want to sell to Safeway. That’s how big Safeway is as a grocery chain…by letting the industry know that this is its goal, (Safeway) is helping move the industry in the right direction,” said Paul Shapiro, spokesperson for Humane Society of the United States.

On the other side, the National Pork Producers Council is a bit worried about the move, calling it a larger trend by governments, restaurants and grocery chains to bow to pressure from animal rights groups and in turn, raise prices for consumers.

“It seems that Safeway was intimidated by an animal rights group whose ultimate goal is the elimination of food-animal production,” the council’s President R.C. Hunt said in a statement.

McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s have also recently announced plans to shift from suppliers who use gestation crates.

Safeway grocery says moving to crate-free pork supply [Reuters]