MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO – Meeting its commitment to eliminating the use of gestation crate housing by the end of 2021, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. announced on Nov. 17 that it would complete the conversion of all company-owned barns used to house its breeding sows to its Advanced Open Sow Housing System by the end of the year. The housing allows pregnant sows to roam freely and feed and socialize without their movement being restricted.

This shift in sow housing makes Maple Leaf Foods a North American leader in producing pigs without gestation crates and represents another key milestone in the company’s commitment to better care through advanced animal welfare.

“Ensuring the animals in our care experience the best possible environment at Maple Leaf Foods, is the right thing to do and an essential part of our sustainability commitment,” said Michael McCain, president and chief executive officer. “Our progress in eliminating gestation crates in our sow barns across Canada is a significant milestone as we proudly lead the industry towards a more compassionate approach to animal welfare.”

After Canada’s pork industry committed to eliminate the use of gestation crates by 2024, Maple Leaf officials aspired to exceed that goal for its company-owned housing, which account for about 40% of the pigs used to produce its pork products each year.

The Advanced Open Sow Housing System was developed as a result of Maple Leaf animal welfare officials exploring housing and feeding practices of pork companies across the world. It created a solution that eliminated gestation crates, which gives the hogs room to move freely and allows the company’s livestock handlers to more effectively monitor and manage the herds.

“Maple Leaf Foods’ system differs from other open sow housing systems by not just opening or removing gestation crates, but rather by creating housing areas with various spaces that support sows’ desires to choose when to play, to socialize, to eat and to rest,” the company said.

Other features and benefits of the new housing system include: LED lighting, windows to allow for natural lighting, night lights to accommodate animals feeding at night, water misting systems to keep the hogs cool and electronic feeders.