SMITHFIELD, Va. – Smithfield Foods’ livestock production subsidiary, Murphy-Brown LLC, has made major progress toward converting from individual gestation stalls to group housing arrangements for pregnant sows on company farms, said Larry Pope, Smithfield president and CEO during a Dec. 7 update on the company’s sow stall conversion process.

“While the conversion slowed during the recent recession due to significant operating losses, at our September 2010 shareholders meeting Smithfield announced that significant resources had again been committed to the conversion” Pope said. “We also resolved to announce our progress on a regular basis. ”

Pope added Smithfield plans to have conversions for 30 percent of the sows on its farms by Dec. 31, which was the company target for this year.

“Smithfield was the first major producer in our industry to publicly commit to converting sow housing to group pens and remains the only large producer to do so,” Pope said. “We will continue the conversion as planned with the goal of completing conversion for all sows on company farms by the end of 2017, and today we are on course to achieve that goal.”

Although the company initially had concerns during the recession about whether it could meet the 2017 goal, Smithfield is now back on track. “Barring unforeseen circumstances beyond our control we are confident that we will achieve our stated goal,” he concluded.

The Humane Society of the United States applauded this news. The Humane Society of the United States had been urging Smithfield to recommit to its timeline, and said it is encouraged by the company’s announcement.

“Smithfield’s recommitment is an important and welcome move,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO.