Maple Leaf Foods Inc. today announced that it endorses the direction of the U.S. industry in phasing out the use of sow gestation stalls in favour of group housing, and will follow this initiative at all Company-owned hog production operations within the next 10 years.
While the science concerning the benefits of sow gestation stalls is sound, Maple Leaf has studied alternative housing methods for some time and actively supports initiatives which respond to consumer opinion as well as the science, in making decisions about the welfare of animals in the Company’s care. The fact is that the U.S. industry has to lead such initiatives; they have and Maple Leaf endorses it fully. As this is an integrated industry in North America, it is essential these types of changes are implemented as an industry, including large U.S. producers, in order to uniformly bear related costs. In making this decision, Maple Leaf recognizes that industry practices are evolving and the Company wants to be on the leading edge of that change.
Hog producers across North America use both group pens and stalls to house sows during pregnancy. While a body of research into both methods exists and is ongoing, to date no conclusive evidence exists that one leads to better herd health than the other, or is a superior production technique. However, there are a growing number of consumers and customers who feel group housing is a more humane handling method. Maple Leaf will migrate to this practice over the next decade as practical, including the retrofitting of existing barns and construction of new ones.
As Canada’s largest pork producer, Maple Leaf Foods has actively participated for many years on both national and provincial initiatives into improved animal welfare practices, including through Farm Animal Care Councils, the Prairie Swine Centre in Saskatoon and other organizations. The Company will continue to support research for improved gestation housing and animal welfare practices that ensure optimal herd health.