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September 21, 2012

Ballpark, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Eliminating Controversial Pig Cages from Supply Chains

The HSUS Welcomes Meat Giant’s Efforts

The Humane Society of the United States applauds the announcement from Hillshire Brands, owner of Hillshire Farms, Ballpark, Jimmy Dean and State Fair meat brands that it will eliminate controversial gestation crates—cages used to confine breeding pigs—from its pork supply chain, becoming the latest in a growing list of major food companies to address this issue.

"The Hillshire Brands Company today announced it is actively engaged in advancing ... alternatives to traditional gestational [stall] housing and intends to have this solution in place by the end of 2022,” said Hillshire in its statement. The company continued by making clear that its "plan is to source all pork from suppliers who use housing that provides the animals the opportunity for adequate movement and comfort."

Hillshire Brands was one of two companies formed in mid-2012 following Sara Lee Corporation’s split.

“We applaud Hillshire for moving to improve conditions for pigs in its supply chain,” stated Josh Balk, corporate policy director of farm animal protection for The HSUS. “For a major meat company like Hillshire to take this step forward is further evidence that gestation crate confinement is on its last leg.”

The similar announcements made recently by Oscar Mayer, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Costco, Safeway, Kroger and other leading food companies signal a reversal in a three-decade-old trend in the pork industry that leaves most breeding pigs confined day and night in gestation crates during their four-month pregnancy. These cages are roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies and designed to prevent them from even turning around. The animals are subsequently transferred into another crate to give birth, 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. This confinement system has come under fire from veterinarians, farmers, animal welfare advocates, animal scientists, consumers and others.

Facts

  • Nine U.S. states have passed laws to ban the gestation crate confinement of mother pigs.
  • Renowned animal welfare scientist and advisor to the pork industry, Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is clear on this issue: “Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.” Grandin further states, “We’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.”
  • Leading pork producers 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.

Media Contact: Anna West, awest@humanesociety.org, 301-258-1518

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