Open Housing System Gives Sows the Freedom to Roam

Traditionally, pig producers confined pregnant sows in gestation crates where their freedom to move, socialize and eat freely was limited.

We decided we could do better

After extensive research and visits to sow barns in other countries, we took the best of what we saw and developed our unique Advanced Open Sow Housing system that gives our sows the freedom to roam, feed, socialize, eat and sleep when they want.

It’s simply a better and more humane way to house our sows.

All of our sows are housed in open sow housing that meets the National Farm Animal Care Council Code of Practice and Canadian Pork Excellence PigCARE standards. We are proud to have achieved our goal of converting 100% of our owned sow spaces to Advanced Open Sow Housing by 2022, which now represents 93% of our sow spaces following the acquisition of additional sow barns.

Maple Leaf Foods advanced open sow housing system

Our Advanced Open Sow Housing system

How we’ve transitioned our sow barns to our unique open housing system.

Take a step inside our Advanced Open Sow Housing system.

What’s the difference between all the sow housing systems?

Let’s find out about

About a conventional sow housing system infogragphic

Conventional sow housing system

Traditionally, Canadian and U.S. pig producers use a crate style system to house their sows.

That means a sow lives a life of confinement, where she cannot turn around, exercise or socialize with other sows. As a result, she is prone to injury due to lack of movement and has limited interaction and bonding with other sows and caregivers.

About a loose sow housing system infogragphic

Loose sow housing system

 A small percentage of the industry in Canada and the U.S. has adopted a system that allows sows more freedom during pregnancy. In these systems, sows are confined until pregnancy is confirmed, after which they are housed in groups.

For the sow, that means the majority of her life is spent free to eat, play, socialize and exercise when she chooses. 

About Maple Leaf Foods advanced open sow housing infogragphic

The Maple Leaf Foods Advanced Open Sow Housing system

Our unique open housing approach significantly reduces the time a sow spends in a stall compared to other systems. We provide open housing following breeding and throughout pregnancy in an environment where sows are free to roam, feed and socialize.

In our system, the sow has the freedom to explore her surroundings, experiences improved well-being and health, has more social interaction with other sows, has more interaction with caregivers, and has better nutrition due to individual feeding programs. Our large pens give sows increased freedom to move and exercise, improving their leg and joint health, and our stable social groupings help sows bond with one another

Sows spend a very limited time (approximately seven to nine days) in stalls for breeding to ensure their safety and caregiver safety, and to allow our sows time to rest after their piglets are weaned.

Sow drinking water in Maple Leaf advanced open sow housing system

How we’ve improved our open sow housing

  • Electronic sow feeders
  • Toys and other enrichments to encourage natural behaviours
  • Enhanced flooring design for foot and leg health and pig comfort
  • Environmentally-friendly materials and LED lights
  • Improved ventilation
  • Windows for plenty of natural light
  • Water misters for comfort on hot days

Animal Care Performance Report

We’re documenting our animal care goals and measuring our progress. See how we’re doing in our 2023 Animal Care Performance Report.

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Integrated Report

We’re documenting and calculating all the changes we’re making. See our progress in our 2023 Integrated Sustainability Report.