Tyson Foods has sent a letter urging its farmers to “implement improved ‘quality and quantity of space’ standards” for pregnant pigs, just weeks prior to facing a shareholder vote on the practice of using gestation crates to confine sows.
As a result, Green Century Capital Management, the Humane Society of the United States and the United Methodist Church Benefits Board withdrew their resolution that urged the company to consider the risks associated with this practice. Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat processor, has come under increasing pressure from shareholders and the public for using crates that confine pregnant pigs in cages so small that the animals cannot even turn around.
In a letter to its contract farmers, Tyson Foods wrote: “We believe future sow housing should allow sows of all sizes to stand, turn around, lie down and stretch their legs. We’re asking the contract farmers who manage Tyson-owned sows to implement improved ‘quality and quantity of space’ standards in the design of any newly built or redesigned gestation barns beginning in 2014. We also strongly encourage the hog farmers who sell market hogs to Tyson to improve quantity and quality of space standards for sows when they or their piglet suppliers re-design or build new gestation barns.”
Pork providers Smithfield Foods and Hormel have pledged to end the use of gestation crates at their company-owned facilities by 2017. Smithfield’s pledge followed a legal complaint by the Humane Society alleging that the pork supplier claimed to have higher animal welfare and environmental standards than it actually did.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article included the headline, “Tyson Foods Tells Farmers No More Pig Gestation Crates,” and said, “Tyson Foods has sent a letter urging its farmers to stop using gestation crates to confine pregnant pigs.”