Cargill ahead of sow housing schedule

by Erica Shaffer
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Cargill has successfully transitioned from gestation stalls at company owned hog farms.  

WICHITA, Kan. – Converting sow housing to group systems from gestation stalls has been a major undertaking for industry, but Cargill is ahead of the curve.

The company announced its company-owned farms are 11 months ahead of schedule for completing the conversion to group housing for sows. Cargill Pork announced the initiative in June 2014 and set an original completion date for Dec. 31, 2015. Hogs produced by Cargill Pork-owned sows represent approximately 30 percent of the total animals harvested each year at the company’s two pork processing facilities.

“In recent years, many of our customers have made commitments related to the pork they will buy in the future, and we intend to meet those needs,” said Mike Luker, president of Cargill Meat Solutions Corp.’s pork business. “We’ve been a pioneer in the use of group housing for gestating sows dating back more than a decade, and recently there has been growing public interest in the welfare related to animals raised for food. Group housing and individual housing for gestating sows both have benefits and challenges. Although a large-scale change to group housing takes time and is costly, we believe it is the right thing to do for the long term future of our pork production in the US, and our customers agree with us and support our decision. However, we are always mindful about the many family farms raising hogs that have livelihoods invested in their operations and it will require patience and resources, should they choose to move to group housing.”

Cargill said its US pork operations had maintained 50 percent group housing at company owned farms for a number of years. Its acquisition of an idled hog farm in the Texas Panhandle helped the company achieve 100 percent group housing for gestating sows at company owned farms.

Cargill Pork has invested more than $60 million in the purchase and improvement of the 22,000-acre property near Dalhart. Improvements include the conversion of sow barns to contain group housing. The Dalhart facility employs more than 300 people, including a team trained to care for the animals at the site.

“We are pleased to achieve 100 percent group housing at Cargill Pork farms nearly one year ahead of schedule,” Luker said. “This is a significant investment in the future of our pork business, and one we made as the result of listening to the marketplace in recent years.”

Cargill Pork's deadline for converting to group housing at contract farms remains Dec. 31, 2017, the company said.

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