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July 17, 2012

Costco Calls on Pork Suppliers to Eliminate Controversial Pig Gestation Crates within 10 Years

Nation’s second-largest food retailer signals end to cruel pork industry practice

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The Humane Society of the United States welcomes the announcement by Costco—the nation’s second-largest food retailer—that the chain is calling on its pork suppliers to eliminate their confinement of pigs in gestation crates by 2022.

“We want all of the hogs throughout our pork supply chain to be housed in groups…and expect that this transition should be accomplished no later than 2022,” wrote Doug Schutt, Costco’s executive vice president of merchandising in a letter sent to the company’s pork suppliers today. “All of us at Costco take animal welfare seriously and consider humane animal handling a business imperative.”

In the pork industry, the vast majority of mother pigs are confined day and night during their four-month pregnancy in gestation crates, cages roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies that prevent them from even turning around. They are then placed into another crate to give birth, are re-impregnated, and put back into a gestation crate. This happens pregnancy after pregnancy for their entire lives, adding up to years of virtual immobilization.

Costco’s decision follows discussions with animal welfare group Mercy For Animals about undercover video taken by the organization at a gestation crate pig confinement facility supplying pork to Costco stores, as well as after discussions with The HSUS.

“The message is loud and clear: the country’s largest food retailers do not want to be selling pork from systems in which pigs were immobilized inside tiny cages for months on end,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of Farm Animal Protection for The HSUS. “Costco’s announcement should be yet another major wake-up call to the National Pork Producers Council that instead of defending archaic gestation crates, it should be working to eliminate them.”

Since February, other major retailers—including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Kroger, Safeway, Kraft (Oscar Mayer), Heinz, Denny’s, Cracker Barrel, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Sonic, Baja Fresh, Kmart, Compass Group and Sodexo—have announced that they will eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains.

Facts:

  • Pork providers Smithfield and Hormel have pledged to end the use of gestation crates at their company-owned facilities by 2017, and Cargill is already 50 percent crate-free.
  • Nine U.S. states have passed laws to ban the practice and Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey have bills pending that would do the same.
  • Renowned animal welfare scientist and advisor to the pork industry, Dr. Temple Grandin, is clear on this issue: “We’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.”

 

Media Contact: Anna West, awest@humanesociety.org, 240-751-2669

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