Food Distributor Sysco Shuns Pig Gestation Cages

Wholesale food distributor Sysco’s new stand against the inhumane use of cages that confine pregnant pigs should have a positive ripple effect, reports Grist.

The crates, sometimes called "sow stalls" are among the most inhumane practices used to raise livestock. Roughly the same size as a pig’s body, the cages are used to keep mother pigs from moving or turning around during their four-month pregnancy. They have been compared to medieval iron maiden torture devices. 

The pressure is on for food companies to stop the practice, and many big-name companies have begun the process. 

In a statement sent to the Humane Society of the US (HSUS), Sysco wrote:

“Sysco takes its role as a responsible corporate citizen in the food supply chain seriously. We use science-based standards for animal welfare and work diligently with our suppliers to ensure humane treatment of animals. We also listen closely to our customers desires. 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. Like many of our customers, we’re going to work with our pork suppliers to develop a timeline to achieve this goal.”

Pig Cage

(Photo credit: Creative Commons)

Sysco’s pledge is a big deal: the distributor pulled in $40 billion in annual sales in 2011, and it has a 17.5% market share. Its sheer size makes it much easier for smaller restaurants and food companies to adopt the same policy, reports Grist. 

"The power of Sysco is the size," Josh Balk, manager of corporate strategy at HSUS, told Grist. "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."

McDonald’s, Burger King, Kraft Foods, Oscar Mayer, Kroger, Safeway, Wendy’s, Denny’s, Cracker Barrel, Sonic, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Baja Fresh, Compass Group and Sodexo are among the companies that have made a similar pledge, according to HSUS.

Pork Smithfield and Hormel have set a specific timeframe to end the practice by 2017, and Cargill is already 50 percent crate-free.

For the whole Grist article:

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